In an interview with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, medical expert Dr. Mehmet Oz said he now insists that all the patients he operates on bring someone who loves them with them to the hospital.
"If you don't have a reason for your heart to keep beating, it won't," the well-known heart surgeon explained, adding that there is a lot of evidence that being isolated breeds illness in our modern world.
"When you're isolated...cortisol, which is a stress hormone, goes through the roof. The stress you feel changes your immune system, and there are many things that can go wrong," he said.
Feeling isolated can be just as hard on your health as smoking, in fact.
AARP Foundation's Isolation Impact Area is focusing on this problem, which puts millions of older Americans dealing with prolonged loneliness at risk of poor health. The Foundation seeks to generate new insights and more effective programs that reconnect isolated individuals to their families and communities.
Want to help someone in your area feel less isolated by volunteering, such as visiting senior community residents who don't have local families? Search for volunteer opportunities via Create the Good by entering your zip code and key words here.
Photo via .Andi in Flickr Creative Commons