How Eating Alone is Bad For Heart Health in Older Women

How Eating Alone is Bad For Heart Health in Older Women

Women over 65 who eat alone are more likely to have symptoms of heart disease.

Sharing a meal with friends or family can be an enjoyable way to eat. You get to swap stories, share your worries, and touch base for a moment while recharging your battery, mind, and stomach. But there’s an added element to eating with others that most of us may not notice: the tendency to eat a bit more healthily when in groups. This is a great phenomenon if you have a regular entourage with whom to sit down at the table: you’re covered. For those who may not, however, eating well balanced meals all the time may become a challenge. And this can prove to be dangerous for your health, in the long run. 

An increased risk of cardiovascular disease in women who eat alone

A study done by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) looked at the health behaviors of almost 600 women over the age of 65. Researchers compared the nutritional status and health of women who ate alone with those who had an eating partner. It was found that older women who eat alone regularly are 2.58 times more likely to have symptoms of heart disease. 

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Is this new? Well, maybe not. In fact, researchers commented that the results weren’t entirely surprising. Older women who eat alone are more likely to be widowed and thus to be from a lower socioeconomic status. This has long been correlated with greater rates of depression, a lower quality of life, and poorer health, overall. And so, the discovery of increased symptoms of heart disease in this group is, in part,  an extension of these other realities. But there’s more to it. 

The pandemic and the prevalence of food delivery apps

Part of the eating alone problem is new. Researchers say that changes in our society have created more and more occurrences of eating alone for both men and women across all age groups. Social distancing measures during the pandemic have made it difficult for people living alone to meet with others regularly. That’s one thing. In addition, there has also been a rise in single-person households in the past decades. 

Since the 1960s, the number of single-person households in the US has risen from about 5 million to around 35 million. And,  not helping matters is the new prevalence of mobile food delivery services that can increasingly motivate people to eat alone. Push a few buttons and the food is on its way to your doorstep. 

The trouble is obvious, however.  Statistics speak. People who eat alone often are also said to be more likely to eat faster, to have abdominal obesity, to suffer from elevated blood pressure, and to have an increased body mass index as well as raised blood lipid levels. This doesn’t bode well. So, if you’re a single woman living alone, what can you do to stay in better health?

If you have a friend or neighbor in the same situation, consider trying to eat together a few times a week. Go to one another’s homes. Make it a potluck. Consult with your doctor about nutrition and make a specific effort to focus on balanced meals. And if you have trouble finding a meal partner, consider getting involved with a volunteer organization like Meals on Wheels. This can help take the burden of sourcing nutritious food off your shoulders and connect you with your community. 

For more information on nutritious meals and healthy living as you age, click here. Bon appetit. 

photo credits: Monkey Business Images/

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