4 Exciting Ways Social Connection Supports Heart Health
Every year, we celebrate February as American Heart Month, per the CDC. This time of year is an excellent reminder to focus on heart health. As you might expect, healthy lifestyle habits like managing stress levels, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy weight, are all great ways to support heart health.
However, you may be surprised to hear there’s another way to care for your heart: social connection. That’s right! Spending time with loved ones and catching up with old friends can serve a purpose for your heart. Here’s how it works.
According to the CDC, stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as other mental health disorders, can put a strain on the heart. They can cause various negative effects, like reducing blood flow to the heart and increasing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Meanwhile, a 2022 study found that social connectedness can significantly help reduce the risk for depression and anxiety. Put simply, by building relationships, you can lower this potential stressor on your heart.
Spending time with others can encourage you to engage in healthier lifestyle habits. You and your friends can hold each other accountable for your health goals, or buddy up and practice them together. In fact, just seeing others participate in healthy activities can inspire action.
According to a paper from the American Lifestyle Medicine Association, there’s significant evidence that social connection is linked to maintaining a healthy body mass index, better blood sugar results, and a decrease in cardiovascular mortality. Plus, it can help decrease depressive symptoms and improve mental health, which, as we’ve discussed, is important for heart health.
Research from the British Cardiac Society points out the connection between loneliness, heart disease, and stroke. It also found that the risk of mortality from loneliness-related causes was like that of light smoking. By focusing on the quantity and quality of your social connections, you can lower loneliness and therefore boost heart health.
Social connection has a big impact on the immune system. Research from the American Psychosomatic Society shows that loneliness and social exclusion are associated with increased inflammation, which can lead to negative health outcomes. Meanwhile, social contact leads to increased antiviral immunity, protecting you from germs and viruses.
At the same time, the heart and the immune system are highly connected. They communicate with several natural bodily substances, like hormones, neurotransmitters, and cytokines. When the immune system is stressed, leading to inflammation, the heart is also negatively impacted. So, next time you’re having lunch with a loved one or making a new friend, know that you’re boosting your immune health and therefore nurturing your heart.
Ultimately, finding ways to bond with others can be a fun, easy way to support heart health. However, it isn’t the only possible course of action. During this year’s American Heart Month, aim to eat a heart healthy diet, move more, manage your stress, and avoid smoking if possible. Even better, ask a friend to partake in these activities with you – by tying in a social connection, you get double the benefits!
We want you to be well and to live your best life. The content in this blog is provided for the purposes to educate and entertain you: our very important reader. It is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical advice from a trained healthcare professional.
If you have a medical condition or are under the care of a medical provider, please always seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before undertaking a new health care regimen. To that point, never disregard medical advice or delay treatment for a medical condition because of something you read on this site.
Listen to your care providers as they know you and your condition best. Thank you for reading!
The Team at BSDI