A senior couple holding hands

February is American Heart Month. Because of this, we’d like to focus our attention to healthy relationships and social connections. Relationships and social supports at every age contribute to a person’s ability

to cope with stress. Our relationships play a vital role because having good quality ones and social supports protect us in times of stress. Humans of all ages need connection and “social capital”. Social capital refers to the combination of social relationships that provides support and plays a key role in resilience against stress and disease.

Social Support & Connection = Better Health

Americans celebrate American Heart Month each February. What does this have to do with our need for social support and connection? Two of the risk factors for heart disease include significant stress and high blood pressure. Having healthy social supports (interaction with friends, family, etc.) can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Our Connections series illustrates the importance of it.

Think about it. When you lean on friends and family when you need help or just need a good laugh or cry, you feel more relaxed. You can face your challenges more easily because they feel less frightening. Without the social support and connection of friends and family, even the smallest of difficulties can feel overwhelming. Long-term stress can negatively impact the body in significant ways, especially your heart.

Risks of Heart Disease

Of course, other factors contribute to increased risk of heart disease such as:

  • Smoking
  • Eating an unhealthy diet
  • Having high cholesterol
  • Being overweight
  • Not exercising regularly

However, with social supports in place and strong connections with friends and family, we may find it easier to engage in healthy behaviors. Our friends and family can encourage healthy behaviors.

Honor Your Heart

This February, honor American Heart Month by rounding up some friends or family members for a healthy outing. Take a long walk, go to the gym, take a yoga class, try a new healthy foods restaurant, take a cooking class, or just spend some quality time together. Think of interactions with social supports as self-care and a way to help your heart’s health this February.