COVID-19 infections may be hitting older men harder. But this pandemic is taking its toll on the health of older women, too—and according to one new study, they might not even notice it’s happening.
And with social distancing restrictions set to tighten up as the second wave of COVID-19 crashes across the country, this is an urgent message everyone needs to hear…
Isolation is as dangerous as weight gain
According to an article published recently in the Journal of Hypertension, socially isolated older women are a lot more likely than older men to suffer from high blood pressure—a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia analyzed social connections among more than 28,000 older participants—all aged 45 to 85 years—of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. And they found that non-partnered women who engaged in fewer than three social activities a month—or those who had small social networks—were also more likely to have high blood pressure.
Average systolic pressure (the top number) was highest among women who were widowed, lived alone, and weren’t socially active. (The difference in blood pressure was largest between this group and married women. In fact, widowed women had the highest risk of hypertension across the board.)
Believe it or not, the effect of social isolation on women’s blood pressure was as profound as other common risk factors, including NSAID use, pollution, or weight gain. In other words, we’re definitely not talking small potatoes here.
But interestingly, the story was different with men. In this study, the men who lived alone and had smaller social networks tended to have lower blood pressure—though I will remind you that social isolation poses a health threat to everyone, raising your risk of dementia, in particular.
Nevertheless, this study found that regular social activities protected non-partnered women against hypertension. Which means that, especially if you’re an older woman, your friends are every bit as vital to your heart’s health as diet and exercise.
Reach out and touch someone
This isn’t the first time that research has pointed out the dangers of social isolation. And you can probably guess why I’m bringing it up now.
Sadly, it’s shaping up to be a lonely holiday season under the shadow of COVID-19. To make matters worse, all the book clubs, dinner parties, and coffee dates that may have brightened up your post-holiday social calendar in previous winters still aren’t safe—at least, not in person.
But if this research tells us anything, it’s that finding new ways to stay connected has the power to save your life.
Your friends and family members may not be able to sit beside you. But at least we are fortunate enough to live in a time where their voices and faces are only a video call away.
One day, this pandemic will be behind us—and we can all go back to hugging complete strangers on the street, if we wish. Until then, find new ways to fill up your social calendar. Join a virtual book club or exercise program. Consider getting a pet. Or even take up a new hobby, like cooking or crafting—and find others online who share in your same interests.
P.S. For additional ways to help prevent America’s biggest killers—like high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke—check out my Ultimate Heart Protection Protocol. In it, I outline an all-natural plan to help keep your heart safe, and strong. To learn more about this innovative, online learning tool, or to enroll today, click here now!
“Social isolation puts women at higher risk of hypertension.” Science Daily, 10/28/2020. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201028124537.htm)