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Friends for Life and Better Health

Are friends the secret to staying healthy? According to a recent study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the more connected we are socially from a young age, the better our health is throughout our lives. The study linked social relationships with measures of physical health, such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and inflammation –risk factors for heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Fostering social relationships early in life is important when you consider the impact of social isolation. Researchers believe social isolation can be more harmful than diabetes with regards to developing and controlling hypertension. During adolescence, isolation is just as bad as a lack of physical activity and inflammation in the body. Another study in the United Kingdom found that people over the age of 52, who are isolated from friends and family, were linked with a 26 percent higher risk of death over seven years.

Social relationships are extremely important, no matter your age. However, if you’re a senior, here are a few tips on how to stay active and socially engaged:

  • Join a club: Hillcrest offers a free program called Silver Elite for anyone 60 and older. Silver Elite provides members access to free health seminars, events and in-hospital benefits. Members enjoy the opportunity to meet new friends and stay in contact with old friends at the events held in Tulsa, Owasso, Claremore, Cushing and Henryetta.
  • Connect with family: From attending sporting events to school activities, staying in contact with family helps alleviate stressful isolation, while also providing built-in social commitments.
  • Take a class: Contact a local senior center such as LIFE Senior Services and ask about opportunities to take a class or connect with one of their services.
  • Enjoy the arts: Ask a friend to go to the museum, see a play or attend a local concert. These are great opportunities to take advantage of the local arts with a friend.
  • Volunteer: Have you considered giving of your time and talents? Volunteering connects you with new people and new experiences. It also helps you stay physically active and helps reduce feelings of depression. Learn more about volunteer opportunities at Hillcrest here.

We all have varying degrees of social lives, but it is important to make sure we have contact with at least one person each day. While making the effort may be challenging at first, the reward compounds over time – leading to lasting relationships and better health!