by Sam Sudo

A good heart

Volunteers improve their blood pressure

There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy ageing
Volunteering improves your health

A recent study suggests that volunteering reduces blood pressure and thereby increases heart health. So now you can really have a 'good heart'.

The recent American study interviewed 1 100 adults aged 51 to 91, and asked them about their volunteering habits while checking their blood pressure at the beginning of the study and again four years later. All the subjects had normal blood pressure readings at the time of the first interview.

Regardless of the type of volunteering activity the subjects engaged in, participants who said during the first interview that they volunteered for at least 200 hours per year were 40% less likely to have high blood pressure four years later than those who did not volunteer.

"Every day, we are learning more about how negative lifestyle factors like poor diet and lack of exercise increase hypertension risk," lead author Rodlescia Sneed, a PhD candidate in psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, said in a university news release.

"Here, we wanted to determine if a positive lifestyle factor like volunteer work could actually reduce disease risk. And, the results give older adults an example of something that they can actively do to remain healthy and age successfully.

"As people get older, social transitions like retirement, bereavement and the departure of children from the home often leave older adults with fewer natural opportunities for social interaction," Sneed added.

"Participating in volunteer activities may provide older adults with social connections that they may not have otherwise. There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy ageing and reduces risk for a number of negative health outcomes."

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