Celebrate Galentine’s Day to improve your heart health
Galentine’s Day is just around the corner. That’s not a typo – it’s the February 13 holiday celebrating female friendship, featured on the long-running television show Parks and Recreation.
Whether you’re single or taken, Galentine’s Day is a unique twist on the love holiday, and it could be argued that it’s good for your health.
“There is a significant body of research that connects companionship and quality relationships with better health,” says Dr. Lubna Piracha, a cardiologist at Advocate Heart Institute at South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “Meaningful friendships can reduce stress and prevent loneliness, for instance. February is full of romance, but clearly, love between friends shouldn’t be discounted.”
If you’ve ever needed an excuse to go get waffles with your best girlfriends, this could be it.
Loneliness can hurt your heart
In 1979, researchers studied social isolation in adults over a 9 year period. Their results of the now-classic study showed that those with weak social ties were at more than twice the risk of death than their well-connected peers. A more recent study came to similar conclusions, showing that social isolation and loneliness may be tied to increased mortality, especially in older adults.
“Social connectedness is essential to emotional well-being, which in turn, can impact your cardiovascular health. Isolation can increase the risk of anxiety, depression or stress, each of which can negatively affect things like blood pressure,” says Dr. Piracha. “If you have a neighbor or friend that lives alone, pop in and check on them now and again. It can be good for you both.”
Friends may help ease depression
Depression is a problem across the United States, affecting more than 15 million people at any given time, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Research has connected depression with a number of serious health risks, including heart disease and stroke. In fact, a 2014 study found that women who suffer from depression are twice as likely to die from heart disease or suffer heart attacks.
“In good news, some research has found positive relationships between friendship and depression recovery, particularly among young people,” says Dr. Piracha. “Maintaining a circle of strong friendships may actually help prevent depression or speed along recovery.”
Could laughter actually be the best medicine?
When it comes to laughter, our best role models might be children. Some have claimed that children laugh hundreds of times every day, while the average adult only manages a few chuckles. And according to the American Heart Association (AHA), laughter is good for your cardiovascular health. The AHA cites studies that have shown laughter to increase “good” HDL cholesterol and reduce artery inflammation.
“Laughter can’t cure established heart disease, of course, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a positive overall impact on your health,” says Dr. Piracha. “Laughter releases endorphins, reduces stress and frankly, feels good.”
So this year, when making your Valentine’s Day plans, don’t forget your gal pals. A Galentine’s Day celebration may be your ticket to a healthier heart.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.