Is Being Lonely Harming Your Heart Health?

by | Updated: February 23rd, 2022 | Read time: 4 minutes

Loneliness and social isolation can provoke desperate, even anguishing feelings—two crises of the mind, you might say, that have reached epidemic levels since the onset of the pandemic. But did you know that they might also place you at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke?

Concept of Can Loneliness Cause Heart Problems Represented by Woman on Couch Looking at Tablet |

Findings published in the journal Heart found that loneliness and social isolation were linked to a 29% increased risk of heart attack and a 32% higher risk for stroke than people who have strong social networks—proof, yet again, that there’s an indivisible connection between emotional and physical health. Indeed, data suggests that loneliness and isolation can be as detrimental to your well-being as obesity or smoking.


One reason is that loneliness and social isolation can raise levels of cortisol—a stress hormone that moderates your ability to rise in the morning and sleep at night. If your cortisol levels are imbalanced, you may experience a host of complications, from anxiety and depression, to insomnia and weight gain, to—you named it—cardiovascular problems.

Another reason? Isolation in itself can lead to unhealthy choices, such as smoking, a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle—all of which can up your chances of cardio issues and stroke.

But the question is, how do you know if you’re lonely?

Am I truly lonely?

Loneliness tends to be associated with introverts, and yet, even the most social butterflies may experience it. The questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do I feel disappointed with the connections I do have? Do I feel misunderstood by my family and friends, or detached in social settings?
  • Do I have a number of casual friends and acquaintances but not a “best,” or at least close, friend I can consistently trust and rely on?
  • Do I feel unheard or unseen when I reach out to the people in my life?
  • Does attending a party, group dinner, or other social event leave me feeling drained and burnt out?

If any of this resonates with you, do know that loneliness and social isolation are completely resolvable—should you take the right steps.

How to combat loneliness

First, if you wrestle with meeting new people easily, consider the things you naturally enjoy. Is it running? Reading? Dancing? Look into clubs and organizations within your community that will bring you into contact with like-minded individuals.

Next, explore the idea of discussing your sense of alienation with a therapist: Some studies suggest that loneliness may be associated with negative feelings of self-worth. Simply speaking to someone about what may be going on behind the curtain could be enormously helpful to you—and your heart (and overall) health.

Even if you have a busy work schedule, endeavor for at least one social date per week with a colleague, gym buddy, or friend. If large situations or loud restaurants heighten your sense of overwhelm, aim for quieter outings, such as going out for coffee or taking a walk.

Either refrain from social media—which can enhance feelings of social isolation—or utilize your favorite platforms to share what’s genuinely on your mind. It could be a tip, a meme, a note of empathy—anything that is real and beyond the façade that so much of social media portrays.

Squeeze more exercise into your life. Exercise releases endorphins and boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine—“happy” brain chemicals that may put you in a sunnier mood to mingle.

Engage in solo endeavors that please you, whether that’s watching a movie, listening to a comedy show or reading a magazine. At times, merely getting out of the quietness of your mind and seeing the humor and beauty that’s all around you, as well as being content with your own company, can provide copious benefits—and one of those might be your heart.

…and how to take care of your heart, inside and out

Heart health is crucial to wellness and longevity. It’s also vital to consider: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. So how do you take care of it?

  • Avoid smoking, as it’s one of the primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a key risk factor as well.
  • Strive to include exercise in your daily life (see above). This could be something as simple as meandering around the block after dinner or as vigorous as CrossFit. Whatever you choose, know that it’s doing you—and your loneliness—well.
  • Cope with stress in wise says, such as with meditation, yoga, and other self-care activities.
  • Ensure that your cholesterol and blood pressure are in check.
  • Utilize vitamins and supplements that organically support heart health. Magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, for example, naturally encourage cardiac wellness.

And, of course, reach out to a friend, counselor, or family member when you need help. Loneliness and social isolation don’t need to be managed alone—and chances are you’ll find not only compassion but will also be bolstering someone else’s heart health too.

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