Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

The Heart is a Lonely Killer

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

Lonely people face a greater risk of heart disease, the biggest killer on the globe, according to a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Lonely students at Ohio State University showed increased blood pressure caused by increased resistance to blood flow that may be harmful in the long run when performing mentally and emotionally stressful tasks. Non-lonely students recorded a more-normal response of increased blood flow from increased cardiac output. Both chronic high-blood-pressure and vascular resistance have been linked to increased risks of heart disease

The students were given a loneliness questionnaire, then monitored during one task involving mental arithmetic and one involving writing and giving a speech to defend themselves against a false accusation of stealing. Blood pressure before and during these stress-inducing tasks rose similarly for both groups, but lonely students had significantly higher vascular resistance and lower cardiac output than the non- lonely students.

In a parallel study of healthy older men and women, aged 53 to 78, systolic blood pressure rose with age in the lonely while it remained more stable in those who were not lonely. The subjects in this study were also given a questionnaire on loneliness, but underwent several medical tests to assess blood pressure and other clinical measures. Blood pressure was significantly higher in the older half of the lonely group. It was similar across all ages among the non-lonely. The study also revealed that lonely people were no different from the non-lonely in terms of behavior risk factors such as drinking, smoking, diet, and compliance with medical treatments.

“Differences in the (mechanisms of blood flow) observed through the session in younger adults may contribute to elevated blood pressure across time in lonely adults,” said Dr. John T. Cacioppo of the University of Chicago. “Previous research has shown that passive coping is associated with elevated (blood pressure) due to vascular resistance, whereas active coping is associated with elevated (blood pressure) due to increases in (cardiac output),” the researchers stated in their report.

“The parallels between these findings are suggestive of recent evidence that lonely individuals are less likely throughout the day to actively cope and more likely to feel anxious and threatened than non-lonely individuals.” Loneliness appears to be a stable characteristic across all ages, they suggest. “Lonely individuals tend to perceive their social world as less reinforcing and more threatening generally than non- lonely individuals.”

Mature Life Features. Copyright 2003

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

April 23, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Health

Tagged with , ,

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