Love is ... a bit risky actually

February 13, 2004

As the nation gears up for Valentine's day, academics warned this week that the pain of heartbreak is not a figment of the imagination.

At a debate on Wednesday night at London's adults-only science venue, the Dana Centre, expert speakers from both sides of the academic fence agreed that heartache had physiological effects and could lead to death.

Martin Cowie, a professor of cardiology at King's College London who spoke at the event, said falling in love produced a "fight or flight" response, with symptoms such as sweating, nausea and an accelerated heartbeat.

He said: "Some people get hooked on that feeling. Broken hearts are the downside."

Professor Cowie gave examples of studies with people who had recently lost a spouse. One study found that the risk of death by heart attack almost doubled for the grieving partner.

Philip Evans, professor of psychology at Westminster University, said he took it for granted that emotional loss caused stress, which had an impact on health.

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