Previous studies have shown a positive correlation between sociability and good health, particularly in cardiovascular health. And by now, we all know that if we are heart smart, we lower the risk of dementia. Consequently, feeling alienated and lonely might raise blood pressure and constrict the arteries, which could damage the brain.
Also, people who are vision impaired tend to feel insecure about falling, so they restrict their going out and interacting with others. This isolation also correlates with cognitive impairment. This is why it is important to restore vision or help the patient compensate for the decline in vision before he or she experiences a cognitive decline.
However, keep in mind that patients afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease tend to feel isolated from humanity and are shy to interact with others because of the shame they feel being at a loss for words or not remembering the names of people they know. One has to question the findings:
- Does loneliness do physical and psychological damage to health which in turn predisposes a person to Alzheimer’s?
- Does being afflicted with Alzheimer’s make a person feel lonely, sad and isolated?
Worthy to note while pondering what came first the chicken or the egg that a new study published in the Journal Neurology suggests that people with Alzheimer’s disease who do not have a spouse are represented less in clinical trials compared to people with spouses. This could be because a spouse serves as a great patient advocate, making sure that everything that can be done for this terminal illness is being tried, including a clinical trial. Another possibility is that a spouse can monitor the patient’s compliance with the clinical trial’s prescriptions and follow-up visits and evaluations.
The take home message: Get out there and mingle. We all need a support system, kind words – a connection to people who will give us a reality check. A great way to socialize and sharpen the mind is by taking an exercise class or working out with a buddy. Exercise improves all health processes, reduces stress and improves mood. Working out while socializing creates a synergistic effect.
For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show