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Can Being Lonely Increase Your Risk for a Heart Attack?

Can Being Lonely Increase Your Risk for a Heart Attack?

Researchers have long known that feelings of loneliness and social disconnect can impact your health, whether young or old.

For example, past studies have found sleep disruptions in lonely children and links between social isolation and depression in young adults. And older adults are at higher risk for loneliness and social isolation because of a decline in overall health , mobility or hearing, or the loss of family and friends. And we all know the number COVID has done on social interactions, especially among the older population.

Newer research goes a step further, suggesting that loneliness and social isolation are linked to a 29% increased risk of a heart attack and a 32% heightened risk of having a stroke. Another study found that older women with greater social isolation and loneliness had a up to a 27% higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

It’s important to note that loneliness and social isolation are not one in the same. Loneliness is an unhappy or distressing feeling of being alone or separated, while social isolation is the lack of social contacts and having few people to interact with on a regular basis. In other words, you can live alone and not feel lonely or socially isolated, and you can feel lonely while being with other people.

The study points out that people who are lonely and isolated are more likely to be physically inactive and to smoke and drink, which can all increase your risk for heart disease.

While some elements of social isolation and loneliness are out of your control, there are things you can do to protect yourself – or your loved one – from their negative impacts. Take care of yourself by exercising, eating healthy and getting enough sleep. And find something you love doing – chances are it will also keep you connected to others, whether it’s volunteering, taking a class, or adopting a pet!