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4 Surprising Ways Heartbreak Affects Your Body

Whether you’re going through a break up, a divorce or suffering after the loss of a loved one, grief can be devastating.

If your heart has ever been broken, then you know that debilitating feeling of your world crashing around you. Regardless of why your heart is broken, you feel that life will never be the same. And in some ways, it won’t be. Whether you’re going through a break up, a divorce or suffering after the loss of a loved one, grief can be devastating. You gradually heal, but the process can be a rough one.

Most people recognize the emotional pain. But physical pain felt during the grieving process is no coincidence.

Turns out, they don’t call it heartache for nothing.

Heartache can actually bring on physical responses … including physical pain in your chest. This “broken heart syndrome” can be triggered by the strong emotions associated with grief, anger and anxiety.

In order to protect your health — and heart — during any grieving process, you need to know how heartbreak affects your body.

Physical Heartache

They call it heartbreak for a reason. Chest pain is a common physical response to intense stress or emotions. According to research in Current Directions in Psychological Science, the brain regions that process pain associated with loss are the same that process physical aches and pains. As a result, you might experience sharp pain, pressure or heart palpitations.

I recently experienced this myself, and it was the first time I’ve ever felt actual pain in my heart as a result of dealing with loss.

My prescription: Move with purpose every day to keep your heart healthy. You probably won’t feel up to it at first, but even a few minutes of exercise will help to clear your head and focus your thoughts. A short walk, a little gardening or a good morning stretch can make the difference.

Weight Fluctuations

When you’re sad, depressed or lonely, you try to fill the void created by your grief. One of the most common ways people do this is with food. Think of all the movies you’ve seen where the depressed and broken-hearted character binges on ice cream, chocolate, pizza, pasta … whatever comfort foods are in reach! It temporarily fills a void, but jeopardizes your health in the process and can lead to serious issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

On the opposite side, there are people who eat very little because their strong emotions result in a loss of appetite. They’re not drowning in unhealthy foods, but failing to eat is just as dangerous and can also lead to serious health issues.

My prescription: Stick to healthy eating. Proper nutrition might be the last thing on your mind, but it’s imperative to nourish your body, heart and soul with whole and healthy foods. Try these feel good foods that actually help boost your mood.


When you’re heartbroken, you might be tempted to spend more time curled up in bed. However, sleep probably eludes you. When dealing with loss, people tend to experience frequent insomnia and sleep disruptions. This is alarming because sleep is the body’s restorative function. Your body uses sleep to regenerate and make up for any deficits. If you’re not sleeping, you’re at higher risk for some serious conditions like obesity, heart attack, immune deficiency and diabetes.

My prescription: Find your sense of purpose and create a reason to peel back the sheets and get on with your day. Even a small goal will do the trick (meeting a friend for lunch, etc.). Just give yourself something to commit or look forward to. 

Body Aches, Pains And Feeling Unwell

When suffering from heartache, your body is more likely to produce an inflammatory response and flood your body with fight-or-flight hormones. This can manifest in symptoms including headaches, stomach pain, nausea, weakness, brain fog, digestive issues, stress, anxiety, depression and feeling under the weather.

My prescription: Practice mindfulness. Cultivating your mind can actually improve your health and boost your happiness! Make time for some yoga or meditation to clear your mind, regain your focus and let your feelings move through you.

When our hearts are broken, all we want is to put the pieces back together and feel whole again. A magical quick fix doesn’t exist. I believe the only true remedy for heartbreak and emotional pain is time. During those inevitable tough times, be patient with yourself and give yourself time to grieve and process your feelings. And remember to maintain your health while healing your heart.

Make healthy living a part of every day.

The light in me honors the light in you. Namaste.

Partha’s Prescriptions

  • Connect with your tribe. These are the people who get you and support you through good and difficult times. Periods of grief can be isolating and lead to depression, so make the effort to lean on your tribe and stay connected.
  • Practice mindfulness. Relaxation, meditation and mindfulness techniques (such as heartfulness meditation) can bring you focus and comfort during times of loss.
  • Seek professional help. If you’re struggling, consider bereavement counseling to help regain your emotional stability.
  • Be patient. Dealing with heartache is a process, and it takes time. Sometimes, all you can do is keep breathing, trust you’ll come out the other side and allow time to heal your heart.

If you found this helpful and want to see more, join Dr. Nandi’s newsletter Health Hero community!

Partha Nandi

Partha Nandi M.D., F.A.C.P is the creator and host of the medical lifestyle television show, “The Dr. Nandi Show”.

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