How a lonely heart can affect your health.

Sad lonely girl sitting on a bench near to a big red heart

Today I want to talk to you about a study that blew my mind when I first read an article published in 2009. It was a 19-year prospective study done on exploring whether or not loneliness was a factor in heart disease. Since that time several more articles have come out on the same topic. This really gets down to talking about Clinical Depression and how emotional well being can manifest itself in the physical.

Many people live alone and have very little community or family support. Loneliness has become a health problem. It appears even with other factors being accounted for loneliness was a factor in heart disease, especially in women. The first study in 2009 found women, and not men, were found to have a correlation.

Another study just came out in May of 2018 stating that there was robust evidence the two were related. This study did not exclude men. It also included a proposed theory on how it happens.

Basically the body responds similarly to loneliness as it does if you are not physically active, smoke or don’t sleep. Your nervous system releases the same inflammatory type properties, called cytokines.

Those cytokines (large group of proteins, peptides or glycoproteins that are secreted by specific cells of your immune system) increase sugar/glucose sensitivities essentially damaging the tissues of your body. I could geek out on the chemistry with you for hours . . . I’ll keep it brief.

I run lots of labs, cytokines along with a complete cardiac panel. In my patients with elevation in all of those markers, I would agree that many of them experience loneliness.

I want you to make an effort to be kind to one another. I am a Naturopathic Doctor and we are known for being a little on the Hippie side!

So I try to let people know what is working for them, encouraging them. I also make sure to encourage my patients not to use excusatory language when talking to others. And most importantly, keep an open mind in your discussions.

It is all simple stuff that we already know, the important part is making it a consistent practice. Think about this – if there are lots of good people that are feeling lonely. I believe with the right practice and consistency we can make it easier to find a few friends that are interested in having mutuality in their relationships.

Here are my top 10 Tips on how not to feel lonely:

  1. Volunteer your time to someone or something in need. There is nothing like helping others to make you feel needed and appreciated.
  2. People who have pets tend to experience less loneliness – try fostering a dog or cat to see if it suits you.
  3. Exercise – increasing your happy endorphins keeps you in a better overall mood
  4. Get out in public, it is amazing how many people will go to a coffee shop or somewhere just looking to chat it up!
  5. Join some type of club or group that interests you.
  6. Get dirty! Gardening helps you feel a sense of purpose.
  7. Take a class at a local college or recreation center that enhances your life experience.
  8. Plan out the fun things you want to do in the next year. Make it attainable so it gives you something to plan and enjoy.
  9. Write a journey about all of the things that are good and that you appreciate.
  10. Eliminated things, people or life choices that don’t make you happy.

As mentioned, there really is a connection here with Depression and we want to take it seriously. Clinical Depression can show up in a couple of different ways. Major Depressive Disorder and, what is called, Dysthymic Disorder.

Here’s how that breaks down:

Major Depressive Disorder, the symptoms of depression are present, and they are more intense or severe. The cause of major depression can be a single traumatic event in your life or slow onset due to numerous stressful situations and life disappointments.

Dysthymic Disorder is characterized by chronic depression for at least two years. Person’s experience symptoms with less severity than that of a person with a major depressive disorder.

Clinical depression often needs some chemical changes. We advocate doing things naturally. That said, no one will give you an award at the end of your life for living without drugs miserably. You need to do what you need to do to achieve optimal health.

Please do consider medication if you need it. Consult with us to make sure you are on the right ones for your genetics. This process is called gene sight testing and helps your treatment to be very individual to you and your needs. If you are looking for a true strategist that cares about giving you a personalized plan, we can help.