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      Connection, Purpose and the Heart

      Connection, Purpose and the Heart

      Social Connection, Finding Purpose and the Heart: A Lifestyle Medicine Perspective

      By Riteesha Reddy, MD, DipABLM

      Did you know that positive social connection and finding purpose in life are good for the heart? One large meta-analysis of over 300,000 individuals followed for an average of 7 years found that people with healthy and supportive relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival compared to those with insufficient social relationships. This degree of effect is comparable to well-established risk factors of mortality such as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.

      In addition, finding purpose in life is associated with longevity. Published in JAMA Network Open in 2019, the Health and Retirement Study of nearly 7000 US adults over age 50 found that those who scored highest on a scale that measured life purpose were less likely to die during the four-year study period. This was especially true concerning death from heart, circulatory and blood conditions.

      Our mental state directly impacts physiological processes in the body. One of the main stressors people face these days is loneliness, which has been found to increase cortisol and inflammation. Taking time to connect with others can activate more beneficial processes, such as the release of oxytocin, which lowers cortisol and reduces pain.

      An important fact about connection is that is unrelated to the number of friends you have on social media or in real life. The benefits of connection are actually linked to your subjective sense of connection. If you feel connected to others, then you reap the health benefits.

      Tips to boost social connection and finding purpose in life:

      • Focus on family and relationships – call an old friend or write a letter, babysit the grandchildren
      • Build community – reach out to others
      • Random acts of kindness – make someone smile by leaving a note or small gift
      • Volunteer and help others
      • Learn new skills
      • Make time for leisure activities and hobbies

      Here at NTPHP, our purpose is to provide the best possible care of our patients, and we strive to form a personal connection with each of our patients.

      Give us a like if this post resonates with you. Tag a friend or family member or colleague with whom who you would like to connect. Share your tips on how you connect with others and find purpose in life.

      In honor of American Heart Month and Valentine's Day, let’s all take care of our hearts.

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