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Socially Isolated Individuals are at higher risk of Cardiovascular Diseases and Death

People who are socially isolated are more likely to have cardiovascular risks such as heart attack or stroke as compared to those people who are socially active.

The German study, which is to be presented tomorrow at the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) Virtual Congress says that socially isolated individuals are almost fifty percent more likely to die for any reason. The research also indicated that an absence of monetary help increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

This research is led by Dr. Janine Gronewold and Prof Dirk M. Hermann from the University Hospital in Essen, Germany performed within the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR). They analyzed data from more than four thousand individuals of an average age of 59.1 years who were selected into a large community-based investigation between 2000 and 2003.

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The study participants entered the examination without any cardiovascular disease and researchers followed them for almost thirteen years. Toward the beginning of the examination, data was collected on various kinds of social help, with social integration surveyed based on marital status and dwelling together, contact with dear loved ones, and participation of the political, community,  religious, and sports or professional organizations.

Dr. Gronewold explains that the physical health of socially isolated individuals is also affected. If someone feels lonely and has no contact with the family members or friends is at higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, heart attack or stroke, and death.

A study finds that molecular mechanisms that are responsible for the high risk of cardiovascular diseases are poorly understood.  Social stress and loneliness are related to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis. Social isolation leads to enhanced myelopoiesis, glucocorticoid resistance, oxidative stress, and upregulated pro-inflammatory gene expression.

Socially isolated individuals have elevated blood pressure and increased peripheral vascular resistance while atherosclerosis develops in socially isolated animals.

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She further said that the present study lets everyone know that strong relationships with friends and family members are much important for their heart health, physical health, and similar role of classical protective factors like acceptable cholesterol levels, healthy blood pressure, and normal weight.

Professor Jöckel, one of the PI’s of the HNR says that this perception is specifically compelling in the current conversation on the COVID-19 pandemic, where social contacts are or have been pertinently restricted in many societies.

Researchers followed study participants for almost 13 years, during this follow-up more than three hundred cardiovascular events, heart attack or strokes happened, and more than five hundred deaths among the study participants. After removing the impact of other factors that may have contributed to these cardiovascular events and deaths like standard cardiovascular risk factors.

They found that future risk of cardiovascular events was increased to 44 percent and deaths from all causes to 47 percent due to lack of social integration. While a lack of financial support was related to a 30 percent increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.     

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Dr. Gronewold tells that researchers are unable to understand the reasons for poor health in socially isolated individuals, however, this is clearly a stressing finding, especially during these times of prolonged social distancing due to coronavirus pandemic.

Prof Hermann says that what they do know is that they have pay attention to this, work out how relationships with family and friends affect the heart and physical health, and find compelling ways of handling the issues related to social isolation to improve overall health and life span.