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Could good interpersonal ties bolster the cardiovascular system? One study found that people who were socially isolated and lonely were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people with strong social networks. Being in a supportive marriage also cuts your risk heart disease, according to a 2018 study. Your relationships may actually matter more to your lifelong health than your cholesterol readings, suggest findings from the 80-year-old, ongoing Harvard Study of Adult Development. The researchers have discovered that the people who were most satisfied with their relationships at 50 were the healthiest at 80. Love, it seems, really is good for the heart.
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Believe it or not, “stress can increase your risk of heart disease 2.5-fold—similar to smoking and diabetes,” says Gianos. That’s because chronic stress puts the body into constant fight-or-flight mode, triggering inflammation, high blood pressure and other unhealthy changes. But mindfulness can be a powerful antidote to that modern state of overload. By focusing on our thoughts and sensations, we can learn to control our body’s response to stress.
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Just as there was a shift from viewing disease as a state to thinking of it as a process, the same shift happened in definitions of health. Again, the WHO played a leading role when it fostered the development of the health promotion movement in the 1980s. This brought in a new conception of health, not as a state, but in dynamic terms of resiliency, in other words, as "a resource for living". 1984 WHO revised the definition of health defined it as "the extent to which an individual or group is able to realize aspirations and satisfy needs and to change or cope with the environment. Health is a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living; it is a positive concept, emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities". Thus, health referred to the ability to maintain homeostasis and recover from insults. Mental, intellectual, emotional and social health referred to a person's ability to handle stress, to acquire skills, to maintain relationships, all of which form resources for resiliency and independent living. This opens up many possibilities for health to be taught, strengthened and learned.