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Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Love and Companionship Foster Healthier, Longer Life

Studies show that socially isolated seniors are at higher risk for disease and illness

February is the month of love, but dark chocolate isn’t the only sweet gift that is good for the heart — building strong relationships plays a vital role in living a longer and healthier life, too.

Physicians have been preaching that eating right and getting regular exercise will improve longevity. But what about the idea that maintaining positive relationships also can help keep people healthy? In numerous studies, researchers are finding that people who have strong friendships age better, recover from illness quicker, have stronger immunity and live longer.

For many years, research focused on the practical view of socialization. As they grew older, people with more developed social connections could get a ride to the doctor, find someone to lend a hand with physical care or go out to dinner with companions. And this is indeed an important part of the picture. However, it is now known that this isn’t the whole story of why social engagement is so important.

According to researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who pooled data from 148 studies involving more than 300,000 men and women across the developed world, those with poor social ties had an average of 50 percent higher odds of death in the study’s follow-up period (an average of 7.5 years) than those with “robust” social ties.

Right at Home caregivers not only offer homemaking, physical assistance and wellness care services, but they ensure the beloved family member or friend enjoys social interaction on a regular basis,” said Larry Kreider, owner of Right at Home in Santa Barbara. “Our caregivers have a genuine interest in helping seniors live a better quality of life, and as a result, relationships are built over time.”

Among the aging, the lack of ongoing relationships and love is a common concern, and the connection between relationships and life expectancy is not a new theory. One health problem reported by Medical News Today links the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in old age to social isolation. Loneliness was linked to lower levels of cognitive function as well as more rapid decline of function. People who identified themselves as lonely experienced double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s than those who described themselves as least lonely.

Researchers are finding that people who have strong friendships age better, recover from illness quicker, have stronger immunity and live longer.
Researchers are finding that people who have strong friendships age better, recover from illness quicker, have stronger immunity and live longer.

According to AgeInPlace.com, an online resource that helps seniors maintain their quality of life, 28 percent of Americans older than age 65 live alone. It is important for seniors and caregivers to be aware of the potential for social isolation and how to create opportunities to develop personal bonds with others.

Additionally, gerontologists state that maintaining human relationships promotes healthy aging in many ways, including:

» Strengthening the immune system

» Lowering blood pressure

» Encouraging physical fitness

» Improving sleep

» Motivating good nutrition

» Reducing the perception of pain

Love from friends and family could be the key to ensuring a longer, happier life. Remember your loved one this Valentine’s Day by giving a cherished gift — your time. Click here for suggestions and recommendations on providing care for aging loved ones.

— Tina Kreider is the owner of Right at Home of Santa Barbara. Click here for more information, call 805.962.0555 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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