You try to eat right, exercise, manage your weight, and make it a point to see your physician regularly – all of which are key to maintaining a healthy heart. But believe it or not, there is one more thing you should do to help keep your heart healthy– make and maintain good friendships!

How Do Friendships Contribute to a Healthy Heart?

A three-year Swedish study of more than 13,600 men and women found that having few or no close friends increased the risk of having a first-time heart attack by about 50 percent.

But how do friendships lead to a healthy heart?


Long-term stress raises the levels of the hormone cortisol, which has been linked to increased blood pressure, triglycerides and blood sugar—common risk factors for heart disease.

Consistent interactions with good friends can reduce your stress by getting you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. They increase your sense of belonging and purpose and can help you cope during difficult periods in life like trauma from illness, personal struggles or the death of a loved one.


Surround yourself with people who support your wellbeing by encouraging you to avoid unhealthy habits, exercise, eat nutritious food and avoid excessive drinking.

They can also be great exercise companions, as well as cheerleaders throughout your health journey.

Vibrant friendships can often encourage you to be more active physically. You will laugh more (which also promotes heart health!), walk further, and have more energy and drive to live a happy, healthy life.


You may be unaware (or be ignoring the fact) that you are experiencing more fatigue or shortness of breath during moderate activity, or that your ankles, hands, and feet have swollen a bit. These are all proven symptoms of heart disease, and a close friend may be more apt to question or make you aware of potential issues.


A friend that will take you to a medical appointment is an invaluable aid, especially one who is willing to meet with you and your physician to help you remember his or her recommendations and ask questions with your best interests in mind.

Good Friendships Don’t Have to Be That Hard to Find!

Find an activity you enjoy, restart an old hobby, or take a class. You’re likely to find others with similar interests that way. Also, make time each day to stay in touch with family and friends.

Stay physically active with a friend. Perhaps join an exercise class together or a walking club.

Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Walking your dog around the neighborhood is a great way to meet other dog owners or neighbors working in their yards.

Join a cause and get involved in the community. Volunteering in places with like-minded people can help you build a positive support system.

Talk with others who share common interests through video chats, email, or social media. Online support groups can be a great place to find a welcoming community going through a shared experience.

Check out resources and programs at your local social services agencies, community, and senior centers.

The bottom line is that your heart health could be dependent on your willingness to reach out and make contact with others. Your heart will thank you!

For more on the benefits of social interaction for older adults, visit Bethesda’s Health & Wellness blog.