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As you get older, it can become easier to find yourself isolated.
Children may move away. Friends and loved ones may pass away. And your once-strong network of social support can shrink dramatically.
Sadly, this isolation not only can lead to depression but has also been found to dramatically increase the risk for numerous diseases, including:
- Dementia, by 50 percent
- Heart disease, by 29 percent
- Stroke, by 32 percent
Studies even show that loneliness raises your risk of death from all causes at a level to rival that of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.
And now we finally know why…
The link between inflammation and disease is the unifying factor
You see, while we’ve long known that loneliness can kill, figuring out exactly how it does it, has been another kettle of fish – an issue that has been overcome thanks to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The study followed over 4,600 participants aged 65 and older to determine just how social isolation was linked with poor health.
And the results?
The team discovered that the reason too much alone time can negatively impact your health all lies in its effect on inflammation.
Basically, isolation causes inflammation to go into overdrive and leads to disease.
And while this might sound strange, it actually fits perfectly when you consider that Harvard doctors say that inflammation may be considered a “unifying theory of disease”.
They even point out that chronic inflammation (which could be driven by chronic isolation) can lead to:
- Atherosclerosis (or a buildup of plaques inside your arteries ), by acting in concert with high levels of LDL or “bad cholesterol”
- Diabetes, by increasing your insulin resistance
- Alzheimer’s, due to your brain’s immune system reacting to beta-amyliod molecules
Put out the fires of inflammation to break that disease link
First and foremost, as this study has shown, isolation is an inflammatory bomb waiting to happen. So whenever possible, get together with friends or family, especially during mealtimes to help overcome the loneliness that raises your inflammatory risks.
If family is not an option, look for community offerings that can get you out and about and around others. Many communities have activity centers, gyms, churches, book clubs — you get the picture.
Next, add these best practices to further tamp down the inflammation/disease threat:
- Exercise more – Exercising at 60 to 80 percent of your maximum capacity can help lower inflammation levels.
- Eat right – Study after study has shown the power of omega-3 fatty acids to clobber inflammation. All you have to do is eat more fatty fish, like salmon and tuna. Fish oil supplements will work just fine, but if, like me, you have a problem with fish burps, try krill oil. Krill are tiny shrimp-like crustaceans that are 48 times more potent, naturally equipped with a bioavaiable delivery system and free of heavy metals, industrial chemicals and pesticides commonly found in fish used to make regular fish oil.
- Reduce stress – Stress-relieving practices such as meditation and massage have been proven to help cool the fires of inflammation in your body.
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Inflammation: A unifying theory of disease? – Harvard Medical School