Broken heart syndrome

We've all heard of devoted couples who died within months or even weeks of each other. There's little doubt that true love is one of the greatest joys of life, but can you really die of a broken heart?

There is an actual medical condition called 'broken heart syndrome' - to doctors, it goes by the ridiculously complicated name of takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Your heart becomes temporarily weakened, and it can be brought on by shock. It's thought to be related to the effect of the 'fight or flight' hormone adrenaline on the heart.

But in my experience there's a far less exotic answer to why so many husbands and wives die close together. After a lifetime of having someone to keep an eye on you (and your health), you're suddenly left alone. Maybe your loved one reminded you to take your tablets or eat healthily; maybe they did some of the tasks you find most stressful. They certainly gave you someone to share your worries with - and as they say, a problem shared really can be a problem halved. That's why family and friends can play such a vital role in helping the bereaved through such a difficult time.