Cardiovascular patients should be screened to find out if they live alone, as this may increase their short term mortality risk, according to researchers.
An international study, led by Harvard Medical School, found that living alone was linked with increased risk of death and cardiovascular death in stable patients at risk of, or with, arterial vascular disease.
The study followed 44,573 patients from 44 countries for four years. Of these 8,594 lived alone.
Overall 14.1% of patients who lived alone died during the study compared with 11.1% of those who did not live alone. However, 8.6% of patients who lived alone died from a cardiovascular cause, compared to 6.8% of those who did not.
Increased mortality risk from living alone was most apparent among patients aged 45 to 65, according to the study published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The authors stated: “Living alone was independently associated with an increased risk of mortality and cardiovascular death in an international cohort of stable middle-aged outpatients with or at risk of atherothrombosis.”
They added: “This simple measure of social isolation may provide healthcare practitioners a unique opportunity to screen their patients after an acute ischemic event to identify those at higher risk for cardiovascular mortality.”
Clinicians should emphasise the need to seek immediate attention for recurrent symptoms and refer to rehabilitation programmes with a psychosocial intervention.
British Heart Foundation senior cardiac nurse Cathy Ross said the study highlighted the “importance of good cardiac rehabilitation”. “Emotional support is an integral part of recovery and living with heart disease,” she said.