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Loneliness is the NEW Heart Attack


Loneliness is the NEW Heart Attack

"Study after study shows that people who are lonely, depressed, and isolated are three to five times more likely to die prematurely than people who feel connection in their life,” says Dr. Ornish.

Dr. Dean Ornish is an American physician and researcher. He is the president and founder of the nonprofit Preventive medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California. Dr. Ornish discovered Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, the scientifically proven program to reverse heart disease. His approach to treating heart disease through radical diet modification and exercise generated significant debate in the medical community.

In 1984 he began the Lifestyle Heart Trial, a controlled study of the effects of a low-fat diet and stress management regimen. In addition to giving up smoking and fatty foods, he included yoga, meditation and a support group.

Dr. Ornish himself suffered from isolation and depression as a young medical student and believes that the stress management aspect of his program, designed to combat social isolation a well as daily pressures of work/life balance, is as essential to the patient’s recovery as is diet and physical activity. Published in 1990, the results of reversal of heart disease and the actual removal of patients from a heart transplant list after the 8 week program, convinced Medicare and private insurers to cover the program.

Some 20 years later, we are quite accepting of the facts that proper nutrition and exercise can benefit heart disease. We are only now beginning to look at the effects of meditation and yoga on these conditions as well.

Love is the answer to loneliness

Now, Dr. Ornish’s concept of support groups and their benefits on heart disease , has courageously expanded to embrace the “condition”, or the “state” of Love. In his new book, Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy, Dr. Ornish explains that among heart patients, depression is as good a predictor of imminent death as smoking, obesity, or a previous heart attack.

Loneliness means being without company, without a companion, without someone to share a story with, complain about your daily grind ( Yes! Complaining is good for this case) or to tell your secrets to or to share a laugh with.

Loneliness means that you are cut off from others either by distance, weather, age, death of former friends, partners or other family members, disability or income variables.

Loneliness means that you are sad. Sadness triggers dejection and can lead to depression and early death, even suicidal thoughts. Early warning signs include fragmented sleep, erratic spending patterns, eating issues, moodiness and chronic health problems.

Support Networks

Love is found, realized and cultivated in social situations. Personal contact, not through social media enhances one’s experience of the caring, sharing of common humanity. Joining a club, a church, a Sangha, a yoga class and attending on a regular basis builds the bonds of intimacy and compassion that eliminates loneliness and increases health & harmony.

May The Blessings Be!

Rev. Dr. Nancy Gahles is the founder of Health & Harmony Wellness Center, Rockaway’s holistic and integrative healthcare center since 1988. She founded Spirit of Love~The Rockaway Sangha, an indie church and meditation center in response to the catastrophic events of Hurricane Sandy where loneliness, loss and depression rose exponentially along with their chronic health components. For information visit her website:

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