Personal Health

How Human Connection Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure

Bonding with people is as much a key to survival as food, water, and shelter. Not only does human connection make us feel safe and supported in a complex world, but it also underlies the body's ability to protect us from illness. A survey of existing research was currently undertaken by Dignity Health and The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and shows that the ability to empathize with and support others can improve health by lowering your blood pressure.

The Mind-Body Connection

Th review of published clinical studies included a focus on how delivering care with compassion and kindness affects blood pressure. When a person is under stress, their body produces hormones that temporarily raise blood pressure. If it stays high over time, it can increase the risk of other health problems.

A study from the International Journal of Psychophysiology showed that positive emotions from human connection help the mind and body relax, ultimately reducing stress hormone levels. In a different study, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that, when people received support during a stressful event, their blood pressure lowered and their heart rate variability increased. Compassionate people, in particular, derive health benefits from social support and from their own kindness.

The Power of Touch

Touch plays an important role in human connection and health. A study by The American Psychosomatic Society found that married couples who supported each other through warm touch, such as hand-holding, hugging, and cuddling, lowered their stress hormone levels. When couples regularly performed this behavior, many of the men showed higher levels of the so-called "love hormone," oxytocin, which lowers blood pressure.

The Impact of Positive Communication

Communication and empathy are at the heart of health care. Doctor-patient relationships based on trust, respect, and warmth correlate with positive health outcomes, particularly in treating high blood pressure. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states that clinician empathy increases trust. It also makes patients more comfortable and willing to participate in their own care and follow their doctor's recommended treatment. The committee urges doctors to provide patient-centered care that includes counseling, education, and positive feedback to achieve better blood pressure outcomes.

A Warm, Friendly Touch Goes a Long Way

The pursuit of loving, caring relationships, emotional attachment, and physical affection is ingrained in our DNA. Human connection brings value to our lives, providing a sense of belonging and enhancing our daily experiences. A wealth of scientific research shows it contributes another important benefit: It helps us manage our everyday health by lowering blood pressure. For more information about human connection and health care, visit The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

Posted in Personal Health

Trained in medical marketing communications, New York City-based Jeffrey Young has been a health, science, and medicine writer for 15 years. He has also led content-development groups at two PR agencies and currently freelances for both corporate and academic clients, including Bayer, Covidien, Eli Lilly and Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co., and Pfizer. Jeffrey's strengths include interpreting research findings and telling stories that resonate with the average health consumer or patient.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.