Good Friends Are Good for Our Hearts
As we conclude American Heart Month, we’re taking a look at how to best to care for our hearts going forward. We know that a healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep go a long way to protecting our heart health. But our social relationships can also play an important role in helping to prevent heart disease, alleviate stress, and even improve recovery after major health events. In addition, a supportive network of friends can give us a greater sense acceptance and purpose while also helping us cope with life’s losses, challenges, and regrets. Now that’s good for the heart and soul.
Making friends isn’t always easy. Over the course of a lifetime, many of us have had supportive and enjoyable friendships as well as those that weren’t so good for us. Identifying the people with whom we feel most as ease and safe is important. Who can you be yourself with? Who makes you think, laugh, or cry at just the right times? Who admires you for who you are? Those who set our hearts at ease are quite literally good for our health. The more attached we become to others in healthy friendships, the more likely we are to enjoy life in a fuller, heart-healthy way.
In a Swedish study, men and women with strong, supportive connections showed better heart health. When they had friends and family that offered emotional support, practical help, and good advice, they fared better physically. In addition, when people enjoyed a sense of belonging in a group with shared interests and values, they had lower rates of cardiovascular disease.
Trying to do life alone is simply harder. Friends can listen and offer help with major decisions, like whether or not to sell the house or make a big change. And they can make smaller decisions fun – like which color to paint your bedroom or which restaurant to try. From big to small, friends make life more doable and enjoyable - whether it’s walking through a season of grief, transition, or even just the neighborhood park.
In older adults especially, studies show that friendship physically benefits heart and artery health. Those who enjoy close relationships with friends and family often show lower levels of inflammatory chemicals in their blood, which are caused by stress. Adults with healthy friendships also tend to maintain good habits like healthy eating and exercise. A study of older women showed that those with strong social networks had a lower risk for coronary artery disease, lower blood glucose levels, lower smoking rates, less belly fat, and lower rates of hypertension. When friends spend time together talking about life, exercising, eating well, laughing, and crying, they lift each other’s hearts.
Everyone can enjoy the give-and-take of friendship. It grows our own sense of belonging and our appreciation for others. When we receive the gifts of a friend, we share our own gift of friendship in return. And the benefits abound.
The Cedars Retirement Community
The Cedars Retirement Community offers a full calendar of gathering times, hands-on activities, and fun events. Located just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana, The Cedars believes in providing the highest quality of life and opportunity for seniors. We want to ensure that your latter years are lived with joy, enthusiasm, and relational connections. Please contact us with any questions or to schedule a tour of our beautiful lakeside retirement community.