February includes Valentine’s Day. For that reason, February has officially been American Heart Health Month since 1963, a time to take notice of your heart health.
Did you know that having good relationships, as celebrated on Valentine’s Day, is good for your heart, and more?
“Being among people and interacting is good for our mental health,” says Anne Higby, a licensed clinical social worker with Asante Physician Partners. “Research shows that people who have strong social communities live longer, enjoy better physical health and are significantly less depressed or anxious.”
Spending time with a loved one has many health benefits:
It can lower your blood pressure.
When someone makes your heart race, it trains your heart to pump blood more efficiently.
Hugs can help reduce stress-related hormones.
Stress is known to restrict blood flow, and that can lead to heart disease; laughing together does just the opposite: it improves blood flow.
A positive attitude can reduce heart attack risk. And what improves attitude more than a positive relationship with someone?
Holding hands can calm nerves.
But having those kinds of relationships can be tough for those who live alone and can’t get out much.
“People who are isolated often used to have extended networks of friends and family to interact with,” Higby says. “As they age, they lose friends to death, and are less able to get out and be social. When an individual become socially isolated, they become reluctant to ask for help.”
A number of relationships can be beneficial for those who don’t have live-in companions. People who can’t get out of their homes find companionship as well as nutrition are delivered by the volunteers with programs such as Food & Friends.
For people who have mobility, community centers, gyms, churches and support groups are great places to make connections. And volunteering offers not only the opportunity to build a social network, but also the added benefit that giving to others provides.
One of the best relationships to build and rely on for health may be one you already have – a relationship with your health care provider and their team.
A great resource for older Oregonians: Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon has a menu of services that can bring people to your home and connect you to community services. Some services are no charge for people on Medicare or the Oregon Health Plan. You can reach them at adrcoforegon.org or 541-618-7572.
And it’s not just human relationships that offer health benefits.
“My clients that have pets work really hard to get out and walk them, to ensure the pet’s needs are met,” Higby says. “Pets provide companionship, a role of a caregiver and a chance to snuggle and be appreciated.”
Read more: “10 truths to keep your relationship healthy,” Psychology Today.
Meet people: Walk Oregon (for walks, walking partners)
Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon - Jackson County: 541-618-7572
Food & Friends
Southern Oregon Humane Society
United Way of Jackson County
Adopt a pet:
Southern Oregon Humane Society