Dr. Noe's 10 Steps to Optimal Health
Step 10: Engage (With Other People)
Your interactions with other people (and even pets) can have a profound influence on health and happiness. People who are socially isolated are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, infection, pregnancy complications, and cancer, among other diseases. In general, people who are socially isolated have 2-5 times the risk of death from all causes compared to those that are not isolated. This is an enormous effect, far exceeding most other risk factors and drug effects. It doesn’t seem to matter too much what you do or who you do it with, as long as you engage with others. This could include family, friends, coworkers, pets, volunteering, church, social groups, clubs, etc.
Here is a sample of some of the evidence that demonstrates the importance of being engaged with others:
- Single men die earlier than married men. They have more heart attacks and more cancer and they have lower survival rates for both. In one study, men that lived alone were 4 times more likely to suffer a second heart attack than those who didn’t live alone.
- Having a dog increases survival rates after heart attack and cancer. In one study, non-dog owners were 6 times more likely to die of a second heart attack than dog owners.
- In the early 1900s it was thought that a sterile environment would be best for babies. As a result, babies in a number of orphanages were placed in sterile cubicles and were only picked up or touched when necessary. Tragically, it was discovered in a 1915 study of 10 of these orphanages that every single baby in this program died by the age of 2.
- In a study of cholesterol plaque buildup in rabbits (the kind that leads to heart attack and stroke), it was discovered that rabbits that were handled by the researchers had 60% less plaque than the rabbits that weren’t handled.
- In breast cancer, women who participated in a support group for 6 weeks lived twice as long as women who did not participate.
For an in-depth treatment of this subject, read Love and Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health by Dean Ornish, MD.
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