Stay Connected to Improve Your Heart Health
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

Stay Connected to Improve Your Heart Health

February is American Heart Month

Increasingly, doctors are offering people looking to lower their risk of heart disease a new bit of advice: spend more time with old friends and make new ones.

The reason behind this unusual medical guidance is very much grounded in science.

According to research from The American College of Cardiology, loneliness is linked to a weaker immune system and high blood pressure as well as an increased risk of hospitalization or death from heart failure. In addition, the report found social isolation and loneliness are most strongly linked to heart disease and stroke, with a 29% increased risk for heart attack and/or death from heart disease and a 32% increased risk for stroke.

Given the current social disconnectedness occurring across the U.S. due to COVID and other factors, the public health impact of loneliness and social isolation is quite significant. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your risk brought on by feelings of loneliness and isolation. Even better, these do not require medication or even a doctor’s appointment. However, they do require some personal commitment and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone.

Here is where to start:

Engage with others: When you interact with others, either face-to-face or online, your body releases hormones that reduce stress and stimulate positive emotional responses, both of which benefit your heart. Some easy ways to connect with others include:

• Weekly face-to-face meetups with friends and family. If you don’t have friends or family close, schedule weekly zoom calls to keep those connections strong.

• Visit online groups or use apps like meetup.com to find likeminded people with whom you share a common interest.

• Stop by local events like author readings, theater, art openings, and sports events that interest you.

• Check your local paper and online forums to find clubs and support groups, including book clubs, religious groups, etc.

• Sign up for a class. From fitness and art to computer literacy and cooking, there truly is something for everyone if you just look. Plus, fitness classes like yoga, Zumba, or line dancing, combine the benefits of social interaction with improved physical health.

Volunteer: Raising your hand to help is a great way boost your health and to give back to your community. Lots of local organizations and even individuals could benefit from whatever time and energy you have to give. Some local groups include:

Meals on Wheels

Habitat for Humanity

Bennington County Window Dressers

Hoosick Area Church Association Food Pantry

The Manchester Community Library

Community Food Cupboard

GBCS

Second Chance Animal Center

The American Red Cross

For volunteer opportunities near you, contact your local government offices or Chamber of Commerce and ask for a list of organizations currently looking for volunteers.

 

Scott Rogge, MD, FACC, is the Medical Director at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Cardiology

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