Doctors emphasize that a healthy diet combined with regular exercise is undeniably key to a long and disease-free life. However, alongside these factors, interactions with the people around you also have a profound impact on the likelihood of living a longer life. So, what’s the connection?
This insight comes from a leading geriatrician at Trinity College Dublin, Professor Rose Anne Kenny. According to her, social interaction enhances brain health and can even protect against heart disease and cancer.
“Social interaction, friendship, social relationships are as important as all the other things that we often talk about, like exercise, diet, physical activity, and even smoking,” she shared on the ZOE podcast, as reported by the Daily Mail on Thursday, September 7.
She explains that humans have evolved to need interaction with others to thrive. Just as we require food and water to survive.
“When we deprive ourselves of that exposure, the effects are actually as bad, as toxic as anything you can get, biologically,” Professor Kenny further noted.
She goes on to explain that regularly spending time with friends and family can reduce cognitive decline and dementia. This aligns with numerous studies showing that loneliness is a major risk factor for declining memory.
Research has revealed a correlation between a smaller brain size and difficulties in essential skills such as planning, focusing, and remembering instructions.
According to Professor Kenny, individuals who are “very socially isolated” are at a higher risk of poor brain health. Additionally, loneliness is associated with chronic inflammation.
“Chronic inflammation is probably the underlying biological dysfunction or abnormality that underlies all the major diseases we know [such as] cancer, heart disease, stroke, and so on,” she elaborated.
The Impact of Social Interaction on Brain Health
Professor Kenny’s insights underscore the significance of maintaining strong social connections for overall health and longevity. Social interaction can stimulate cognitive function, ward off mental health issues, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
People of all ages should consider the value of socializing as part of their overall well-being strategy. From seniors forming close-knit communities to young adults nurturing friendships, human connection can be a powerful factor in promoting a longer and healthier life.
In addition to exercise and diet, it’s essential to prioritize social engagement and maintain meaningful relationships. These connections contribute not only to emotional well-being but also to cognitive function and physical health.