Local Health

2/12/2013

Relationships offer healthy benefits

By BRITTANY TATE The Brunswick News

They say love is good for the soul, and that's likely true.

But it's also good for the heart and great for your health.

Maintaining a stable romantic relationship can help keep you and your loved one healthy, experts say. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Jan Kiss, a registered nurse and certified health and wellness coach at LifeChange Health and Wellness, 170 North Cottages Drive on St. Simons Island, says good relationships are essential to happiness, as well as to physical and emotional health.

"Humans are social beings by nature and most of us tend to do better in all ways when 'connected' in a relationship. Our relationships influence everything from heart health to age-related health issues," Kiss said. "Because we are social beings by nature, it is difficult to stay in balance with our health and wellness if our relationships are on tilt.

"(Since) you cannot separate somebody's mind and heart from their physical self, relationships and the mind and heart of the person will be impacted by how solid and strong their relationships are."

Research shows men and women sleep better and eat healthier when their relationships are solid and healthy habits are in place.

In a 2004 study of 38 couples, the University of North Carolina found that men and women had higher blood levels of oxytocin after hugging. This stress-easing, mood-improving hormone appeared to have lowered blood pressure and lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol in women.

The study also found that hugging, holding hands or a simple rub on the shoulder attributed to lowered stress.

Depression and anxiety might also be reduced by healthy relationships. In fact in a 2010 World Health Organization study of 35,000 people in 15 countries, those who were married were less likely to develop anxiety and other mental disorders. It should be noted that the study did not specify whether the couples were happily married.

Kiss says there are a number of ways couples can balance their relationship and health, including:

* Making sure you have time to spend with your partner. Spending time together and being with one another will lower your stress.

* Talking about your mutual life, health and career goals. Write out or talk about your goals and how you want to support one another to achieve and maintain them.

* Putting actions into place that will support your time together and your health, such as gym nights, weekend exercise activity you can enjoy together and healthy snacks in the fridge and pantry.

* Establishing healthy sleep habits. Talk about what you both need to sleep well. If you sleep well you will be less apt to get tired and less apt to eat sugar to keep you awake.

Though maintaining healthy relationships are not easy, Kiss says it can be done.

"Solid relationships tend to have partners who motivate each other to stay healthy, whether it is going to the gym together, setting mutual goals or supporting one another," she said.

"On the reverse side, when a relationship sours, each partner may try to make themselves feel better by eating sweets and carbs - the feel good instant fix that spells disaster for your health."

Kiss says those who are struggling to stay healthy and happy should seek professional help.

"Talk with a health and wellness coach and a life coach to customize a plan for you and your partner that will support your goals in all areas of your life. Working with both allows you to learn the healthy habits and the tools to sustain the health and wellness in your life and relationship," she said.

Janel Holland, a licensed clinical social worker in Brunswick, says a relationship can impact your life either positively or negatively.

"Research has shown many benefits of healthy relationships - living longer, better mental and emotional well-being, better financial situation," Holland said. "But on the other hand, an unhealthy or even abusive relationship can cause harm to us mentally, emotionally, and physically."

Holland says one can impact the other, good or bad.

"A healthy life style can improve your overall well being and health, making you feel better to actively be engaged in a relationship. However, the stress and impact of poor health leaves one at a disadvantage to manage the pressures that arrive from being in a relationship," Holland said.

Holland said those in a relationship can encourage one another to have a healthy lifestyle - for example, preparing meals and practicing spirituality together.

Holland suggests enjoying other aspects of life that can bring happiness instead of focusing on trying to find romantic love.

"Look for ways to show your feelings of love and care for others. Send flowers to an elderly person, give candy to show appreciation for a friendship you value, or send a card expressing your care for someone," Holland said.

* Reporter Brittany Tate writes about lifestyle topics. Contact her at btate@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 317.