adults who live alone are more likely to suffer a heart
attack or die suddenly from cardiac arrest than those who
live with a mate, a large study suggests. Danish
researchers found that of the more than 138,000 adults
they followed for two years, singles had a higher risk of
suffering an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) -- either a
heart attack, serious chest pain known as unstable
angina, or sudden cardiac death.
Single women older than 50 and single men older than 60
were at particular risk, the researchers report in the
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Whereas single women in that age group accounted for only
5 percent of the study group, they suffered more than
one-third of all ACS deaths. Single men older than
60 constituted less than 8 percent
of the study group, yet accounted for close to two-thirds
of ACS deaths.
Though it's not entirely clear why singles had greater
heart risks, there are a number of reasons the association
makes sense, according to the study authors, led by Dr.
Kirsten M. Nielsen of Aarhus Sygehus University Hospital.
"I think it's very much likely that there is an
accumulation of risk factors among singles," Nielsen told
Reuters Health. These include
smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, poor diet
and lack of exercise -- all of which, studies suggest, are
more common among single adults.
People who live alone may also have a smaller social
network, which research has linked to ill health effects,
Nielsen and her colleagues note in their report.
Their findings are based on data for 138,290 adults ages
30 to 69, obtained from Danish public registers. Over two
years, the researchers identified 646 people who suffered
an acute coronary syndrome.
Overall, people living alone were at two to three times
greater risk than adults who lived with a partner. In
fact, single living and older age were the two strongest
predictors of heart trouble
among all the demographic factors the researchers studied
-- more important than education, occupation and income.
There was an exception, however; divorced women showed a
reduced risk of ACS. This is not necessarily synonymous
with being single, as some of these women may have been
living with someone. But it's possible divorced women are
a low-risk "subgroup" among singles,
Nielsen said, perhaps due to healthier lifestyles.
She suggested that older adults who live alone take stock
of their lifestyle habits and ask their doctors about ways
to control any heart disease risk factors they may have.