Give it a guess.... what seems to quite possibly be the #1 thing you can do for your health?
Losing Weight, Quitting Smoking, and Lowering Blood Pressure are all Really Important
Yes, losing weight is important. Pshew.... for some of us, this is a lifetime affair! Reducing body weight has been shown in countless studies to improve longevity, increase health outcomes, and even improve happiness. But one study found that something else was even more important than losing weight.
So what is your next guess? Quitting smoking. Yes! Yes, to quitting smoking. Seriously guys, it is horrible for your health. If you can't quit on your own, go to a professional and learn some new tricks so you can quit on your own. Smoking kills more people per year than HIV, drug & alcohol use, car accidents and gun violence combined!
But still, there is something that has been shown to have a more significant influence on health.
Lowering your blood pressure is also really important. Probably far more important than many of us realize. Most of us know that high blood pressure has been link to heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes. Are you aware it has also been linked to kidney failure, vision loss, and sexual dysfunction?
Still, research seems to suggest that something else was still shown to have a greater impact on good health.
Could Good Health Be More Linked to Your Bank Account than Genes?
Hard to believe, but there may be something that is even more important than losing weight or quitting smoking. Next guess? Financial stability. Yes. It seems money may not buy happiness, but it may buy good health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) wrote very clearly: "higher income and social status are linked to better health. The greater the gap between the richest and poorest people, the greater the differences in health."
Anyone else outraged by that casual statement of fact? Generally speaking, the more financial wealth you have, the more likely you are also to possess health wealth. Yes, you too can have great health! If you can pay for it. Naturopathic, homeopathic, and other non-conventional options are just examples of this heart-breaking reality. You can have access to these health-promoting options... as long as you can pay for them because insurance probably won't cover it.
But your financial status isn't something that you can easily change, let's say by this evening at 7pm. And apparently there is another choice you can make that has a greater potential to swing your health in to the "good" category.
Good Health Probably Doesn't Come in a Bottle... Whether the Bottle has a Prescription or is "Natural"
What other guesses do you have? I will give you a hint. It isn't fish oils. And it isn't a multi-vitamin. Sorry, it isn't drinking a glass of wine every day either. And with all the media hype right now, it isn't even probiotics.
Ready for me to spill the vegan beans? OK. Here you go..... It isn't fancy. And it sure isn't brain surgery. It doesn't even have to cost you any money. But it just might be one of the most important things you can do for your health. What seems one of the greatest predictors of good health and longevity is.... deep, meaningful social connection and spending time with loved ones. That's right.
One remarkable study of 6,928 adults found that those without strong "social and community ties were more likely to die" within the 9 year study during. Yes! More likely to die within a 9 year period. This effect was much greater for women then men. The researchers found this effect was largely independent of socioeconomic status, obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity.....! Though these things often make the negative effects of social isolation worse.
Another very large study of 2,320 men found that social isolation made heart attack and death more common. And the highest levels of social isolation were among the least educated men. We can once again see how closely socioeconomic status and health are joined.
When Being "Too Busy" to Make Time for Friends Becomes Bad for our Health
Devastatingly, the busier we become, the more we tend to isolate. And for women, this can bee especially harmful! It has been suggested that many of us fill our schedules with busyness, just to ease the feelings of loneliness that we are experiencing. And this can have significant effects on our physical and mental health. Researchers have found that the same hormone that helps to bond with your children, partner, and friends (oxytocin) may also help to dampen the effects of stress in the body. They have found this effect is especially evident for women.
You work to eat right, exercise, quit smoking, lose weight, lower your blood pressure.... but how much time and effort are you spending developing relationships with your loved ones? It seems your friends and family might be worth the time and effort also. For you and for them.
So this holiday weekend, make sure to make the space for some quality time with loved ones. Especially those that continuously help you to be the best version of yourself.
True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it is lost. -- Charles Caleb Colton
In loving memory of my Bubba, Ian Jensen (8/26/82-2/11/17).
My most favorite person in the world.
Oh, Bubs, you have taught me life's most difficult lessons.
Lesson #3: make the time.