Loneliness Can Cause
High Blood Pressure - Increases Risk of Hypertension
Best to have
Researchers from the University of Chicago studied elderly people over
the age of 50 and found that those that were lonely could have blood
pressure readings up to 30 points higher than those who were surrounded
by friends and family. They believe that loneliness could be as bad as
being overweight or inactive.
It is estimated by the year 2010, 30 million Americans will be living
alone, that's a 20 percent increase over 25 years ago. It is now known
that loneliness can lead to both stress and hypertension (high blood
pressure). E.J. Mundell suggests in Healthday News that loneliness may
be its own risk factor. According to two individuals involved in the
research, Louise Hawkley and Richard Suzman, the results were
surprising. They were surprised by the "specificity" of the findings --
that it was loneliness, per se, and not attendant states such as
depression or anger, that appeared to be responsible for the boost in
blood pressure. Hawkley said "So, that means that people who are lonely
have a double whammy -- they are feeling the stress and they are
High blood pressure can increase the risk of both strokes and heart
attacks, so it is important to isolate various risk factors for high
blood pressure. In this study the researchers enrolled 229 people ages
50 to 68 years old. Hawkley and her colleagues used standard
questionnaires to determine each participant's perceived level of
loneliness, as well as other psychosocial and cardiovascular risk
The researchers accounted for negative emotive states, like sadness,
stress or hostility. Even after these considerations, the blood
pressure readings were as much as 30 points higher in lonely people.
Plus the degree of hypertension appeared to get “stronger” with age.
The researchers recommend strengthening existing relationships, plus
make new ones. Mundell mentioned that people can feel lonely even if
they are with a lot of people. Hawkly brought up the example of
Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe. She said “there was certainly
nothing lacking in their social lives, yet they claimed to have felt
So what should loved-ones do? Targeted interventions that break that
cycle might help change things, she said. "This area is ripe to begin
trying out interventions to see how one could change, modulate or reduce
the impact of loneliness on blood pressure. If those interventions are
low-cost and practical, then it's going to have a significant public
The ABC News affiliate in Los Angeles ran a segment on this subject.
They brought up the case of Patricia Jones, who did care much for
company, after she lost her husband and most of her vision. It took a
toll on her health.
According to Cardiologist, Dr. Cynthia Thaik, doctors should ask about
their patient’s social interactions, not just their diet and exercise.
Doctors should encourage their patients to reach out. That's what
Patricia Jones did. She's a volunteer who calls on lonely seniors at
home. She says her sense of humor brightens their day.
"We find that patients are divorced, widowed, single and these are the
patients who have a greater recurrence of heart attack," Thaik said.
The problem of loneliness will likely become a bigger health concern as
more and more baby boomers reach their golden years.
By Dan Wilson
Books on Heart Disease
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