How Healthy Relationships Can Impact Your Health

Having close relationships with family and friends can bring a lot of fun into your life. But did you know it can be good for your health, too? Research shows being social and maintaining close ties with others can help you live longer and avoid serious medical problems. 

At Columbia Internal Medicine in Castleton, New York, Padma Sripada, MD, helps women and men learn how to forge happy, healthy relationships in their lives, using a holistic approach customized for each patient’s unique needs. Here are five ways healthy relationships could benefit your health.

1. Reduced risk of heart disease

Several studies have shown a link between enjoying healthy relationships and having better heart health. In fact, one 2017 study found that unmarried people with heart disease were about 52% more likely to have a heart attack or die from a heart-related problem compared to married people. 

2. Longer life

Hanging out with loved ones and friends just might help you live longer, too. A 2019 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that married people have lower overall death rates compared to unmarried people, including people who were divorced, widowed, or never married.

3. Faster healing (and better immunity)

Being involved with people socially also supports healthy immune function, which means that when you’re sick or injured, your body can repair itself more quickly. A strong immune system can also help you avoid diseases and illnesses.

4. Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major factor in conditions such as heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and dementia. Happy relationships can help lower your blood pressure, which may also reduce your risks of these serious complications.

5. Sense of belonging

While this benefit is challenging to quantify, there’s no doubt that when you feel connected to others, you also feel a sense of purpose and belonging. When you feel valued in life, you tend to focus more on the positive things you’re doing, and that can go a long way toward improving your overall mood and outlook.

Understanding the link between relationships and health

While studies have been able to demonstrate these links between healthy relationships and overall health benefits, researchers still aren’t sure why these benefits exist. It could be that being able to share stressful or unhappy times with a friend or loved one helps reduce stress, along with the unhealthy side effects that go along with stress. 

Being happy and relaxed is also associated with the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain, which can also help reduce stress, sadness, and depression. In fact, research shows something as simple as a hug can decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol while increasing levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with happy feelings and less stress.

Some researchers theorize that close friends and loved ones may also play a role in supporting healthy behaviors like eating a nutritious diet, being more active, and seeing a doctor when symptoms crop up.

Help for your healthy relationships

Like most good things in life, maintaining healthy relationships takes work. Life is busy and stressful, and taking time to build and nurture relationships sometimes gets put on the back burner. What’s more, it’s all too easy to let the stress you feel during your daily routines spill over into your relationships, which can make it more difficult to bond.

If you need some help building strong relationships, or if you’re worried about the impact of negative relationships in your life, Dr. Sripada can help. She and the team at Columbia Internal Medicine use a holistic, whole-patient approach to help women and men take important steps to forge healthy relationships at every stage of life. To learn more, call the office to schedule an appointment today.

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