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Living Alone Raises Serious Heart Risk

People Who Live Alone Twice as Likely to Have a Heart Attack
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 13, 2006 -- Living alone may be hazardous to your heart.

A new study shows that people who live alone are twice as likely to have a heart attack or serious chest pain and sudden cardiac death as those who live with a partner or roommate.

Researchers say the results suggest that doctors should take a patient's living situation as well as age and other established risk factors into account when assessing his or her risk of heart disease.

They say certain heart disease risk factors may be more common in the lifestyles of people who live alone, such as obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, and making fewer visits to the family doctor, and may help explain the findings.

Lonely Hearts at Risk?

In the study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Danish researchers followed more than 138,000 adults between the ages of 30 and 69 living in one area of Denmark.

During a two-year period, 646 people were diagnosed with heart attack, severe chest pain (angina), or sudden cardiac death. These three manifestations of heart disease are part of a spectrum of conditions known as acute coronary syndrome.

Using information on age, sex, education, and other demographic factors from population registers, researchers found age and living alone were the two strongest predictors of acute coronary syndrome.

Women over age 60 and men over age 50 living alone had the highest risk of death within 30 days of diagnosis of the condition.

For example, women over age 60 who lived alone comprised only about 5% of the study participants but accounted for a third of all deaths. Meanwhile, men over 50 who lived alone comprised under 8% of the study participants and accounted for two-thirds of the heart-related deaths.

Other factors that increased the risk of acute coronary syndrome were poor educational attainment and living on a pension.

Factors that decreased the risk of serious heart disease were living with a partner, a high level of education, and having a job.

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