Importance of community can not be understated. It is one of the 6 pillars of Lifestyle Medicine, along with plant-based nutrition, exercise, stress management, avoiding tobacco/alcohol, and getting adequate sleep. We frequently discuss the benefits of eating a whole food plant based diet and also at times the importance of exercise and stress management in achieving holistic health and wellness, but as of yet, we have not done a blog on community. So, today, we would like to remedy this oversight.
Community is no less important than the other pillars of Lifestyle Medicine. There is considerable research which shows that social interaction has a positive effect on our health and wellness. Positive social support not only improves our emotional well being, but can boost our immune system, reduces the level of our stress hormones, which in turn can reduce our risk for high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
Social support is crucial at any age but social isolation in older individuals is a strong determinant of health and longevity. Dean Ornish demonstrated clearly that the benefit of love, support and community is reversing coronary artery disease. In fact the number one predictor of death following a major heart attack is social isolation. Chronic social isolation is considered an independent risk factor of cardiac mortality along with smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.
Moreover, social groups play a large role in our overall health including whether or not we are obese or overweight. In a landmark study, The Spread of Obesity in a large social network showed that if your best friend becomes obese, you have a 57% chance of becoming obese. Our behaviors are often influenced at a subconscious level by those who are around us and research clearly shows that social behaviors are contagious. This is one of the reasons that it is so essential to find and join a healthy community of like-minded individuals. There are several other benefits as this article from the Huffington Post illustrates.
Research from Blue Zones shows the power and amazing benefits of being part of a healthy community. Individuals who live in the Blue Zones live longer, healthier, and happier lives. Their society is designed in such a way that the healthy choice is the easy choice. Let’s all learn from the example of Blue Zones and form happy, healthy communities right here.
Fortunately in Houston, it is not difficult to find and join so many wonderful groups and community potlucks as there are several Plant Pure pods in the Houston area hosting monthly potluck gatherings. Vegan Society of Peace has been hosting a potluck and education event for over a decade. And of course, you are all welcome to join Lifestyle Docs and Bayou City Beet on the first Sunday of the month at 1:00 PM at our clinic for our monthly community potluck. We also host another community event, Walk with a Doc. Join us in the morning of the second Saturday of each month and reap the benefits of exercise, being out in nature and of course, community.