One of the corniest moments in Episode III is Natalie Portman, a talented actress, stuck trying to both act out giving childbirth and dying because her sand-people-murdering husband turned out to be a lousy person after all. It’s widely mocked across the Internet, but it turns out, ol’ George might have been on to something.
It’s been known for a while that psychological stress can contribute to poor health and even fatalities, but researchers at Aarhus University wanted to know the exact, literal effect losing a long-term partner would have on your actual heart. So they tracked atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that makes stroke and heart attack more likely, across people who had just lost their long-term partner. It turns out that heartbreak is a medical condition, as people who’d lost a partner were up to 41% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation.
The good news is that this risk isn’t permanent, since it’s highest right after your partner passes and gradually declines until you’re back to normal levels after about a year. Still, this explains why long-term couples tend to pass away fairly close to each other, and marks something doctors should look closely at when treating patients dealing with this difficult sadness. It also means we have to apologize to George Lucas, but we’re still right about Jar Jar being terrible. We only have to apologize to Ahmed Best for that one!