Loneliness may increase cardiovascular disease risk- Experts
Public health physicians have revealed that lonely people are at higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and other ailments like depression, sleep problems, and other poor health outcomes.
According to them, loneliness releases excess stress hormones, causing an elevated heart rate, and increased blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which are all classified under cardiovascular diseases.
The World Health Organisation described cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) as a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels. Global health lamented that CVDs are the leading cause of death globally.
WHO noted that an estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2019, representing 32% of all global deaths, adding that of these deaths, 85% were due to heart attack and stroke.
Speaking with news reporters, a professor of Public Health at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Professor Tanimola Akande and a Public Health Physician, Dr. Timothy Olusegun, said loneliness also reduces the number of antibodies produced to fight infection, noting that this may make the body more susceptible to cancer.
Prof. Akande said loneliness can complicate mental illnesses, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. According to him, inactivity caused by loneliness tends to make the individual hypertensive and not burn carbohydrates from food and, therefore, tend to be obese with the complications that arise from this.
The public health professor noted that loneliness can also lead to a sedentary lifestyle.
“Loneliness means such a person stays long without interacting with other people, and this gives room for inactivity, little or no social interactions, and giving room for diseases that particularly affect the mental health of such individuals
“Loneliness can lead to diseases like cardiovascular (heart disease and stroke), diabetes and mental health challenges like depression and anxiety, drug addiction, suicidal tendencies, and dementia.
“A lonely person is often inactive and devotes too much time to deep negative or unproductive thoughts. Loneliness may also be a symptom of a disease like depression, where the individual does not want to mix with others.”
On claims that lonely people always experience cold, the public health physician said, “This is not always the case, but lonely people who stay indoors in cold or moist environments tend to have symptoms of cold like running nose.
“People who stay alone need to realise the health implications and stop the practice. People who observe that some individuals are lonely can also help by advising them to interact often with people and to also find time to keep them company.”
According to Dr. Olusegun, lonely people release more cortisol and that too much of the hormone causes inflammation and diseases. The public health physician noted that social isolation and loneliness can increase the likelihood of mortality by up to 30 per cent.
He stressed that people who are isolated and lonely have been known to engage in activities that can worsen their health.
“This is a serious health concern because loneliness affects everything; every aspect of health and well-being
“When people are isolated and lonely, they tend to eat more, don’t work out and get sufficient sleep. Their health-related behaviours become worse.
“Study has also found that people who feel lonely may engage in more unhealthy behaviours compared with those that feel more socially connected.
“Adults who are lonely have a 40 per cent increased risk of developing dementia and other cognitive impairments,” he said.
Dr. Olusegun, further noted that lonely people may suffer chronic inflammation, which can lead to health problems like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer.
“Inflammation is part of how our immune systems kick into action to protect us against harm or disease or heal.
“Chronic inflammation is this process gone awry. The body continues to send distress signals even though there is no injury or danger. This type of chronic inflammation causes chronic health problems.”