Side of support networks

03.03.14 |

Last week, I shared an article on my Facebook and Twitter about a relatively new study.

Last week, I shared an article on my Facebook and Twitter about a relatively new study.

Utah researchers found a link between spo

usal support and cardiovascular health. To quote Bert Uchino, one of the researchers, “There is a large body of epidemiological research suggesting that our relationships are predictors of mortality rates, especially from cardiovascular disease. But most prior work has ignored the fact that many relationships are characterized by both positive and negative aspects – in other words, ambivalence.”

When partners perceived support from their spouse as sometimes helpful and sometimes upsetting, they were also likely to have particularly high coronary artery calcification (CAC).

Uchino said, “The findings suggest that couples who have more ambivalent views of each other actively interact or process relationship information in ways that increase their stress or undermine the supportive potential in the relationship.” While more research is necessary to fully explain the link that this team at the University of Utah found, Habits of Health or Discover Your Optimal Health readers should not be surprised by what has been found so far. More of the general public is learning that optimal health extends beyond a healthy weight. Even if you are not considered overweight or obese, there is still a key difference between healthy and non-sick.

By moving from our fixation with weight, we can see the bigger picture of health and address the many factors that affect our health. This study illustrates that our emotional state and the quality of our relationships have a direct impact on our health, suggesting that we should put just as much effort into our personal interactions as we do nutrition and exercise. In Dr. A’s Habits of Health, I describe a triad composed of three triangles: Healthy Eating, Healthy Sleep, and Healthy Motion.

Uniting these triangles is a core piece: Support. Surrounding yourself with friends and mentors who create and promote positivity is one of the keys to creating health. If the people in your life are not encouraging of health or if they work against the healthy environment that you are creating in your life, achieving your health goals will be incredibly difficult. Negative influences in your life can create stress and facilitate depression, which have been linked to a number of health problems. Even if you are eating the right foods and exercising, the toll of these challenges could undo all of your hard work.

The flipside of this lesson—and it’s one that might be easy to overlook—is that the way you interact with the people in your life could directly affect their health. In the case of how spousal support can affect health, as describe the University of Utah researchers cited earlier, the responsibility of support is shared between people. In your marriage, in your friendships, and in your many other relationships with coworkers, family members, and even complete strangers, you are one half of a two-way interaction. You are both a receiver and a sender.

Are you a consistent source of positive support? Or are you wavering in ambivalence, offering an influence that flutters between positive and negative? What can you change so that your part in your relationships is a source of optimal health?

These may not be easy questions to answer, but they are an important part of your own health as well as the health of the people you care about. That big picture—where we consider all of the variables that contribute to health—is optimal health, and you are a part of that big picture for the many people in your life. That is why I termed this interactive optimal health community our bionetwork.

Simply defined, it is a network of like-minded people that are healing themselves from the inside and then by reaching out and adding influence over others are both reinforcing and positively impacting the world around us.