Social Interactions Keep Your Brain Healthy, Know the signs

By Regina FordUHS Logo

Relationships are good for you—and your brain. New studies are linking social connections with reduced rates of dementia in older people. In one four-year study by the Mayo Clinic, participants who socialized with others were 55% less likely to develop Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).

Another California study of older women tallied the frequency of social contacts. Women with larger social networks were 20% less likely to develop dementia than those with smaller networks. Women who had daily contact with friends and family cut their risk of dementia by almost half.

Although this type of research is relatively new and scientists are just beginning to understand the reasons, it seems clear that social interactions protect the brain in some way. There is mounting evidence that loneliness, in particular, leads to increased rates of Alzheimer’s Disease and other health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, high stress cortisol levels, and a weakened immune system.

What can we do about loneliness? There are a few steps that people can take:

  • Nurture your personal relationships
  • Don’t use electronic communications as a substitute for face-to-face interactions
  • Take time to volunteer
  • Join a social club or community organization
  • Stay in touch with olds friends and colleagues

Everyone feels lonely from time to time. It is normal to feel lonely after losing a spouse or being isolated by a serious medical condition or illness. But, staying isolated can lead to chronic loneliness. Chronically lonely people tend to overreact to small things and feel threatened when approached. This can lead to a dangerous downward spiral of continued loneliness and isolation.

Social connections are key to warding off loneliness. People who belong to faith communities or volunteer regularly greatly reduce their risk of being lonely. In short, strong social bonds strengthen mental health. This Valentine’s Day reconnect with people and improve your long-term brain health.

If you have questions about the group, call Regina Ford, Area Manager for United Homecare Services, 503-433-8079. This story is sponsored by United Homecare Services. If you are interested in finding out more or scheduling a no-obligation consultation, call 503-433-8079.