Risks of heart disease increase with social isolation and loneliness: by the numbers

February is American Heart Month — and with that in mind, here’s some news worth sharing.

According to a prospective study published this week in the American Medical Association’s JAMA Network Open, the risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women increases by up to 27% in those who experience both social isolation and loneliness.

“Social isolation and loneliness were associated with an increased risk of incident [cardiovascular disease] among older women in the United States, suggesting that interventions to reduce social isolation and loneliness in this population are warranted,” the paper notes.


The study was carried out between March 2011 and March 2019.

It included 57,825 women in the United States aged 65 to 99 from the Women’s Health Initiative Study II.

February is Heart Health Month; it raises awareness of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. But by adopting a healthy lifestyle and monitoring medical conditions, we can all reduce the risk of heart disease. Among the keys to reducing the risks: physical activity, healthy eating, less stress, avoiding smoking and vaping, and sleeping well.
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The women reportedly had no history of myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke or coronary heart disease.

Loneliness and social isolation are separate but related concepts. A person can experience loneliness without social isolation, or vice versa.


COVID mitigation strategies adopted to stem the pandemic include social distancing, limiting contact, and quarantining.

Yet the long-term impact of these strategies on women’s cardiovascular health and risk profiles could be profound.

While Friday, February 4, 2022 is National Wear Red Day – created to raise awareness of heart disease among women – check out this snapshot in numbers below of overall statistics related to heart health in the United States.

Heart disease in numbers

1) Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which cited the Interactive Summary Health Statistics for Adults: National Health Interview Survey.

2) In 2020, 4.6% of adults were diagnosed with coronary heart disease at some point in their lives, according to CDC data.

3) One in five deaths of women in the United States was caused by heart disease, according to figures reported by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics in 2017. That figure may actually be closer to 1 in 3, according to the American Heart Association.

4) Every 36 seconds, someone in the United States dies of heart disease, according to statistics reported by the CDC.

5) Each year, 805,000 people in our country have a heart attack. About 20% of these heart attacks are “silent,” meaning the person is unaware of it, although the damage is done, according to the CDC.

To reduce the risk of heart disease, we all need to eat well and include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet.

To reduce the risk of heart disease, we all need to eat well and include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet.

6) About 18.2 million adults age 20 and older have coronary heart disease, the CDC reports among its Heart Disease Facts.


seven) Estimates of the total costs due to cardiovascular disease amount to $1.1 trillion — that’s a trillion with a “t” — by 2035, according to Healthline.

The American Heart Association and the CDC have resources on their websites for those interested in learning more about American Heart Month and heart health.


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