Did you know strong social connections help keep your heart healthy? Did you also know feelings of loneliness and social isolation affect your heart and increase the risk of cardiovascular events? Who would have thought social connections can be strongly connected to heart health!
Spending time with loved ones and friends has many benefits to heart health like lowering blood pressure and stress levels. However, what are some of the other effects when someone is experiencing loneliness or social isolation?
Loneliness and Social Isolation Effects on the Heart
Loneliness and social isolation are two risk factors, that contribute to cardiovascular disease and other heart-related problems. Loneliness is described as feeling disconnected from social connections, while social isolation is when someone is physically lacking social connection. Both conditions are inextricably linked.
According to studies, there is a correlation between loneliness and being socially isolated and the effects they have on heart health. One study detailed by Medical Express found social isolation contributes to an increase in cardiovascular risks (such as heart attack or stroke) by 44%. Also, another study described by TIME suggests social isolation increases the risk of first-time heart attacks by 43%, while loneliness increases the risk of first-time heart attacks by 49%.
Loneliness and isolation can also cause a stroke, another major cardiovascular risk According to TIME, social isolation increases the risk in first-time strokes by 36%, and loneliness increases the risk in first-time strokes by 39%.
Luckily, there are many ways to stay social and feel less lonely, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ways to Combat Social Isolation and Loneliness
With COVID-19 still affecting our society in ways that keep people, not just older adults, isolated from their friends and family, how can we stay social and not feel so lonely? There are many ways to continue to be social even during COVID-19.
Stay Connected through Social Media
Social media is a great way to engage with family and friends, especially through pictures, videos and messages. During the pandemic, social media has become even more important because it allows people to form more friendships and stay in touch with family and friends.
Call or FaceTime
A quick and simple way to staying connected and maintaining social distancing is a call or FaceTime to a loved one. It provides a way to hear a loved one’s voice and see their face without physically being there.
Community Outreach Programs and Organizations
Contact your local churches and organizations, they are a great way to help you connect with other people in your town. Meals on Wheels and Pin Pals can also help people who cannot socially interact on a regular basis.
Small, Socially Distanced Family and Friend Visits
FaceTime is great for social distancing, however, visiting someone is more personal and can make a difference in everyone’s attitude. If you are worried about social distancing and being inside, consider going outside and taking a nice walk or drive to memorable places. Just take time to lay out specific guidelines and the necessary precautions before visiting someone.
Staying social is an important piece of a healthy heart. Many people are feeling the effects of loneliness and social isolation but by trying to reach out and connect with people in safe ways, we can combat the effects of loneliness and social isolation.