People with heart disease who live alone tend to die sooner than those sharing their home with others, according to an international study that looked at more than 44,000 people.
Previous studies have linked social isolation to everything from heart attacks to weakened immune systems, but the current study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, focused specifically on people with known heart disease or at very high risk for it.
Reasons for the difference remain unclear, but lead researcher Deepak Bhatt said access to regular medical care might be involved.
"Patients living alone may have more difficulty getting their medications refilled and taking them regularly," Bhatt, at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told Reuters Health.
"They also don't have anyone at home to call the doctor's office or emergency room if they are not looking well."
The study included more than 44,000 people, all aged 45 or older, from multiple countries across the globe.
Over the four years the study lasted, 7.7 percent of participants younger than 65 who lived on their own died, compared to just 5.7 percent of those who didn't live alone.
The gap was smaller for people aged 66 to 80, but it remained statistically reliable even after accounting for age, sex, employment, ethnicity and country. The living situation of those over 80, however, wasn't tied to death rates.
Bhatt and his team speculated that in people under 80, living alone could signal psychological and social problems like job strain or loneliness. In contrast, very old people who live on their own may be healthier and more independent than those who don't.
Whatever the explanation, Bhatt said cardiologists should routinely ask their patients if they live alone.
"If the answer is yes, that might be a red flag and they should make sure the patients have a way to get their medicine regularly," he said.
Meanwhile, patients who live alone should think twice before ignoring changes that might be a sign of health problems.
"May times people just adapt to their circumstances. Perhaps just lower your threshold a little bit and realize it's better to call (the doctor) than not to call."
But that might not be the whole story, he acknowledged.
"Other mechanisms by which living alone could increase cardiac risk have to do with possible social isolation and loneliness, and these are more challenging to fix," he said.
Indeed, another report published along with Bhatt's shows that older people who felt lonely had more difficulty performing basic tasks of daily living and died younger than those who didn't feel alone. SOURCE: http://bit.ly/KgcRnj
No Ebola cases detected for two incubation periods, says World Health Organization
The World Health Organization and leading global health specialists have criticised Saudi Arabia for failing to properly investigate the causes of MERS.
UNICEF predicts that the number of children orphaned by Ebola – which currently stands at nearly 200 – will reach as many as 2,000
UN Article 82 could mean millions in additional costs for drilling companies.
The figures, through Nov. 16, represent a jump of 243 deaths and 732 cases since those issued last Friday, and cases continue to be under-reported, the WHO said in its latest update.
The infectious disease causes total paralysis in a matter of hours. It affects mainly children under five years of age.
The 30-year-old woman was from the province of Minya, south of Cairo. She died in a hospital in the southern city of Assiut
UNAIDS estimated that by June 2014 some 13.6 million people globally had access to antiretroviral medicines - a dramatic improvement on the 5 million who were getting treatment in 2010.
The H5N8 form of the virus has hit a Dutch chicken farm and a German turkey farm and is suspected - but not yet confirmed - as the strain that infected ducks on a British farm.
'Hidden childhood killer' drowning is among the ten leading causes of child and youth deaths, according to WHO's first global report on drowning.
More than 20 species of starfish, also called sea stars, from southern Alaska to Baja California are dying from a wasting disease
Japan has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is a cherished part of its food culture
The new fatality brings to two the confirmed number of bird flu deaths so far this year
Drug resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages bacteria to evolve to survive and develop new ways of beating the drugs.
The country has seen a reduction in the number of new Ebola cases since the beginning of October
MSF, known also as Doctors Without Borders, is the only organisation to have worked extensively with Ebola in the last 20 years