Keys to Healthy Living: Friendship and Purpose*

July 30, 2018

Changes in lifestyle and outlook can affect longevity!

As we think about the prospect of living longer, millions of us are taking more responsibility for our own health. We’re realizing that the choices we make each day are more important than an occasional visit to the doctor’s office.

As a result, we are seeking more and better information to help us make healthier decisions, and tools for lifestyle changes that lead us toward physical and mental fitness and enhance our well-being, not just treating our ailments.

We also need to focus on things like building strong social connections and reducing loneliness and social isolation, realizing a sense of purpose, and developing a more positive, optimistic outlook on aging. Social connections are important to your health. People with close friend relationships are more likely to get plenty of sleep, eat healthy foods, maintain peace of mind and have less stress, engage in brain health activities and take on new challenges and hobbies.

Loneliness is the new smoking – according to one researcher, it is equally as bad for you as inhaling 15 cigarettes each day. Studies show that loneliness can shave eight (8) years off life expectancy, and that it has a big negative effect on quality of life. The mortality risk for loneliness is greater than that of obesity. Social isolation of older adults is associated with an estimated $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually. Here in the United States, Care More, based in California, became the first U.S. health care provider group to directly address loneliness and its impact on health.

Having a purpose in life is also important to health and is a key factor to aging successfully. A sense of purpose for many is more important than making money, and it’s associated with a wide range of better health outcomes. Evidence shows that optimism about aging has an impact on our health, adding 7.5 years to our lives. Those with an upbeat view of aging are more likely to fully recover from severe disabilities, have a larger hippocampus (a part of the brain that affects memory), show less anatomical evidence of Alzheimer’s on an MRI, and have up to an 80% lower risk of a cardiovascular event.

We are discovering that changes in lifestyle and medical advances can increase our life span and shrink the number of years spent with a disability. But it’s also vital that we have something to get us up in the morning and someone to share our lives with – and approach each day with a smile.

*Excerpts from the June 2018 AARP Bulletin

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