Bad thing, loneliness. It makes us close in on ourselves, leads us to isolate ourselves and, probably, in case of symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, it makes us arrive later in the hospital. If it is true that “time is heart and brain”, then, social isolation can represent not so much a reason to increase the risk of heart attacks or brain accidents, but rather the spring that leads to underestimate the situation and ask for help in delay. with obviously heavy consequences.
To outline this picture, for the first time, is an original study coordinated by the University of Oxford and appeared on Lancet Public Health, which re-proposes social isolation as a factor to be monitored and contrasted in terms of public health. In fact, research shows for the first time that this condition does not actually increase the risk of developing heart attack or stroke, but causes an increase in mortality if affected by these pathologies: those who are alone and have few contacts, in fact , he does not have who can help him for timely help and therefore is at greater risk of worse outcomes.
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The research surveyed just under 940,000 people, drawing information from two large UK databases, the Million Women Study and the UK Biobank. All participants (mean age 63 years) had no history of coronary heart disease or stroke and were followed for an average of seven years. Three different levels of social isolation were considered (life alone, contact with family and circle of friends). In the monitoring period 42,402 first heart attack events and 19,999 first stroke events were observed, of these 1834 heart attack events and 529 stroke events were fatal without the possibility of hospitalization.
The risk of death among individuals who did not arrive in hospital was substantially higher in the group of subjects who lived alone than in the group of subjects who did not live alone or otherwise had frequent contact with family or friends.
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“Myocardial infarction and cerebral stroke, which are today the number one cause of mortality, are time-dependent pathologies in which therapeutic success derives from the timeliness of treatment – he explains Ciro Indolfi, President of the Italian Society of Cardiology (SIC). For example, in the case of myocardial infarction STEMI (particular configuration of the electrocardiogram that characterizes the heart attack itself) the reduction in mortality of about 50 percent, found in the last decades, has been obtained thanks to angioplasty and coronary stent, when performed within 120 minutes of first medical contact and ideally within 60 minutes. Time is therefore a fundamental variable and in this sense social isolation, according to the study, therefore becomes a problem to be addressed as a priority for public health. Although there is no clear definition of social isolation, it is generally regarded as a rare social contact with family, friends or groups, or rather living alone ”.
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Even after hospitalization, “companionship” is essential
If the English study focuses on the acute phase of heart crisis and stroke, other research confirms how even after being hospitalized for a heart problem, living with other people can make a difference in terms of prognosis. Just think in this sense of a search for ‘University Hospital of Copenhagen appeared on Heart, who studied the psychological side and the burden of loneliness in patients discharged after a cardiovascular disease. The results are certainly significant: not having company, and having little social support from neighbors and friends, would result in a greater risk of death.
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A to risk this situation more would be men: Unlike other research, the Danish study looked at the one-year outcomes of people who they had ischemic pathologies, rhythm disturbances, heart failure and heart valve diseases. The survey shows that isolation is associated with a threefold increased risk of experiencing anxiety and depression, compared to those who do not have problems with loneliness. But that’s not enough. Going to evaluate the data of the National Register one year after inclusion in the study, literally counting who had died, it was seen that regardless of the diagnosis, loneliness was associated with poorer health.
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In particular, once the aspects relating to social status and other elements that can affect well-being were also considered, single women had an almost three times increased risk of death from all causes compared to those who lived in company and for children. men, the dangers have even more than tripled, reaching as much as 39 percent. Possible mechanisms? According to what the authors of the study hypothesize isolation would trigger a series of changes in immune reactions, neuro-hormonal balance and the cardiovascular system. But we are only in the field of hypotheses.