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Loneliness and social isolation can impair cognitive function and heart health

According to a recent study, social isolation can raise one's risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.

According to two studies published this week, older persons who are lonely, socially isolated, or do not engage in stimulating activities are at risk for heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the first study, which was written up in the Journal of the American Heart Association, social isolation and loneliness may raise your chance of having a heart attack, having a stroke, or passing away.

According to the data, social isolation raises the risk of heart attack and stroke by 29% and 32%, respectively.

A lack of regular face-to-face interactions and social connections with friends, family, coworkers, and members of community groups, such as religious organisations, were classified by the researchers as social isolation.

According to the study, people who have three or fewer social interactions each month may be 40% more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke again. They observed that the likelihood of social isolation rises with ageing as a result of widowhood, retirement, and the demise of friends and family. Nearly one-fourth of those over 65 experience social isolation, and between 33 and 47 percent of older people report feeling lonely.

However, older folks are not the only ones that experience social isolation and loneliness. Young adults in Generation Z, who range in age from 18 to 22, are considered to be the most lonely. They may utilise social media more than previous generations and engage in fewer meaningful in-person activities as a result.

In addition, the COVID-29 pandemic exacerbated social isolation in a number of populations, particularly those aged 18 to 25, women, elderly adults, and those with low incomes.

The second study examined why some people with amyloid plaques in their brains—a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease—show no symptoms of the condition. It was published online in Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Others with comparable plaques, however, experience memory and cognitive problems.

According to the researchers’ theory, a cognitive reserve that aids in brain protection might be produced by genetic and environmental variables. Before the age of 26, involvement in clubs, religious organisations, sports, the arts, and education may have an impact on the brain’s cognitive reserve. Learning new things throughout one’s life may also help the brain resist dementia.

“Although cognitive decline can’t be cured, it may be prevented by implementing activities, which are beneficial to build new neural pathways and connections in the brain, helping to keep the mind sharp and putting it to work,” Dr. Sameea Husain–Wilson, director of movement disorder neurology at Baptist Health’s Marcus Neuroscience Institute in Florida, told Healthline. “Good choices include puzzles Sudoku, games, music, card games, reading, playing instruments, or practicing hobbies in which the mind must think outside everyday tasks.”

1,184 participants who were born in the UK in 1946 were a part of the most recent study. Each individual underwent two cognitive tests: one at age 8 and the other at age 69.

The researchers discovered that stronger reading proficiency, a higher cognitive reserve index, and better cognitive skills in childhood were all linked to better results on the 69-year-old cognitive exam.

“Being actively involved in community resources, such as senior centers helps older adults maintain independence. Engaging in church or faith activities and groups can provide spiritual and emotional support,” added Dr. Estefania Maurer Spakowsky, a physician with AltaMed Health Services Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). “Depression is significantly higher in the elderly population due to social isolation and contributes negatively on their health. Older adults who are depressed tend to have issues with memory, regularly eating, physical activity, and decreased adherence to medications,” explained Spakowsky. “Empowering and motivating older adults, providing resources to engage in activities and socialize with peers will positively impact their health.”

Loneliness and social isolation can impair cognitive function and heart health

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