How to Have Great Health in Your 80s
Do you have at least one relationship where that person will be there for you when you have a problem? If you do not have someone like that in your life then that emptiness becomes a source of stress and trouble which then negatively impacts health according to Dr. Robert Waldinger, Director of Harvard Study of Adult Development.
Please watch this video where he discusses the significance of relationships and their impact on our health.
Dr. Waldinger is involved in the longest scientific study on health and happiness in history and the study points to relationships being the key to great health. The study began in 1938.
The Key to Great Health is Relationships
We discussed the significance of social relations on health in SuperCentenarians: Living 110 Plus Years and in Blue Zones: Create One for Yourself.
Blue Zones are unique places across the globe where people tend to live longer than 90 years and even more than 100 years old.
The video above refers to the Blue Zones across the globe which include:
- Sardinia (Italian island)
- Okinawa, Japan
- Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica
- Ikaria (Greek Island)
- Loma Linda, California
The video also mentions Roseto, PA which we referred to in SuperCentenarians: Living 110 Plus Years.
Great Relationships – Great Health
Typically people with great health have several close relationships. Close relationships become more difficult to achieve and maintain as we get older for the simple reason our friends and relatives die off plus there is a tendency for us to isolate ourselves more as we age for any number of reasons.
It is also important to stay connected to the younger generations as we age. Many of my friends and relatives now have grandchildren which brings about incredible joy to them. It helps them see life and the world through the wonderment of a child.
Dr. Waldinger’s research shows that the strength of our relationships in our 50s seems to be the best determinant of health and happiness in our 80s – not cholesterol, not blood pressure, not arthritis, not diabetes, or other medical markers or disease.
The challenge to good health is persistent stress – stress that can be alleviated by having close relationships where you have someone that can listen to you and enable you to unload your problems.
He theorizes that people who do not have such close relationships stay in a low level “fight or flight” mode where the bodies never calm down. This leads to higher levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and inflammation which slowly breakdown our organ-systems.
We know from research on telomeres that stress shortens telomeres more than smoking, sugar, and obesity.
We have an epidemic of loneliness in our country which has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Waldinger discusses that loneliness hinders having great health and that paradoxically social media has made the feelings of loneliness worse as people only share or post the positive aspects of their lives making our lives seem less meaningful and more empty. This is especially true among teenagers and young adults who are more apt to have identity issues.
S0cial media can make us feel like we are “missing out” on the good life and has possibly accelerated the problems of loneliness and disconnection.
Establishing Social Connections
Focus on re-establishing prior relations and strengthening the ones you already have. Make attempts to establish new connections too. Simply striking up a conversation with a stranger can reduce feelings of loneliness for both that person and make you feel better about yourself.
Achieve great health and happiness – work on your relationship with others.