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Lack of personal relationships may increase the risk of heart disease in older men, according to a recent report presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2003. The researchers discovered that, among a group of men in their 70s, social isolation was connected to increased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin (IL-6), and fibrinogen in the blood.
As part of the MacArthur Successful Aging Study, investigators had taken and frozen blood samples in 1988. Several years ago, the researchers in the present study began analyzing the blood samples taken from 388 men and 438 women. These researchers also gave participants a questionnaire to gauge their social relationships and correlated the levels of the participants' biomarkers with their degree of social relationships.
Whereas no correlation was found between the degree of social isolation in women and their levels of the inflammatory biomarkers, it was a different story among the 388 males.
CRP levels were 3.69 for those in the lowest fourth of the social network index, compared with 2.33 for those in the highest fourth
Levels of IL-6 were 5.54 for those in the lowest fourth and 4.10 for those in the highest fourth
Fibrinogen levels were only slightly different: 2.98 compared with 2.73