Loneliness does more than pull the strings of your heart, it can hurt your heart

Silent, uncomfortable, helpless, withdrawn: all these feelings are felt by the lonely.

Research shows that these feelings not only cause emotional stress, but are part of a real badociation between social isolation and negative health outcomes. For the first time, studies are badyzing heart failure in lonely people.

More than 6 million people live with heart failure in the United States, with more than 960,000 new cases diagnosed each year. By 2030, there may be more than 8 million cases of heart failure.

"One in five Americans over the age of 40 are affected by heart failure," Dr. Clyde Yancy, spokesperson for the American Heart Association (AHA) and head of the school's cardiology division, told ABC News. of Feinberg Medicine at Northwestern University.

It's a condition that causes the heart to not be able to pump enough blood to the body, and heart failure already takes up millions of dollars in medical care each year. Research shows that one in four of these 6 million patients with heart failure feel moderate to high levels of social isolation.

  PHOTO: A woman sobs in this stock photo. STOCK / Getty Images
A woman sobs in this stock photo.

Young unmarried women with heart failure were more likely to see themselves as socially isolated, and those with this sense of social disconnection are more likely to require more medical care than a typical patient with heart failure.

"Moderate" social isolation was badociated with a 16 percent increase in the risk of outpatient visits, and "high" social isolation drove that risk increase by up to 26 percent. These patients also have more than three and a half times the risk of death, a 68 percent increase in the risk of being hospitalized and a 57 percent higher risk of a visit to the emergency room compared to other patients with failure cardiac

The study says that treating patients with heart failure is more than their body. Asking patients about their subjective feelings of isolation and loneliness may be important in identifying those at greatest risk.

"Those who are most successful in caring for their illness are those who have a partner by their side, or a team, so they are not doing their illness on their own." A team is important in maintaining the hope and prevent medical errors at home, and those with a team apparently do better, "said Yancy.

Intervening early in the course of the disease to reconnect the patient to your community may improve outcomes for those who are lonely.

Yancy agreed that awareness of loneliness is the first step, and an increase in support networks should be available for those patients to help in their health care success.

Eric M. Ascher, DO, is a third-year New York family medicine resident who works at the ABC News medical unit.


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