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Guest column: Good social lives also key to good health

The coronavirus pandemic has a huge impact on everyone, both nationally and socially. The number of cases and the number of deaths from coronavirus continues to rise and has radically changed all our lives. I would say that everyone of us has know at this point in time someone with the virus or a positive test.

This reminds me of my childhood back in the 1940s and 1950s when the polio epidemic took place that killed or paralyzed so many worldwide. As a child I was told to stay away from crowds and take a nap every day. We even had a president — Franklin Roosevelt — who was in wheelchair because of polio. We didn’t have respirators back then but had the “Iron Lung.” We didn’t know to use hand washing and face masks like we do now. Doctors Jonus Salk and Albert Sabin developed two polio vaccines that eliminated polio from the United States.

Ten recommendations that are important to decrease the spread of the virus are listed:

  • Wear face masks (with others)
  • Wash hands (frequently)
  • Avoid crowds (especially inside)
  • Social distancing
  • Use hand sanitizers (frequently)
  • Outside is better than inside (with others)
  • Get tested (especially if exposed or symptoms)
  • Quarantine, if positive test
  • Limit contact (if possible)
  • Stay healthy mentally and physically

And finally, very important — get the vaccine when available to you and encourage your family and friends to get the vaccine. If we do all this, we can control and conquer this pandemic.

I have written many articles on improving our health over the years in the Index-Journal. Most of these have suggested a healthy lifestyle including that a proper diet and exercise were the most important factors.

A recent book I read “Growing Young” was quite surprising and interesting. It was written by Marta Zaraska, who has written many articles on health for national newspapers and magazines. The conclusions in this book are based on scientific studies that are included in the 11 chapters. On the cover of the book it stated in bold letters “HOW FRIENDSHIP, OPTIMISM and KINDNESS CAN HELP YOU LIVE TO 100”. At the end of each chapter is a paragraph in bold enclosures “A FEW SUGGESTIONS TO BOOST YOUR LONGEVITY.”

Some findings of this thought-provoking book that might be as important, if not more important, than proper diet and regular exercise in showing how to live longer and improve your health are as follows:

A strong support network of family and friends can lower your mortality risk by 45%.

Being happily married can lower your mortality risk by 49%. Prioritize your romantic relationship and really work on improving this and being a better partner will improve your health. Kiss your partner, hold your kid’s hands, hug your family and look each other in the eyes.

Volunteering can lower your risk of death by 22% and showing empathy for others and caring for others and donating to charity are all important.

Having a purpose in your life and showing optimism and kindness are more important than seeking happiness. Loneliness, pessimism, unhappiness, neuroticism, anger and depression are all bad for your longevity. Practice yoga, mindfulness, meditation, drink hot tea, take hot showers and get a massage. These will help you to live longer. Keep diverse friendships. Knowing and talking with your neighbors and friends frequently will add joy and years to your life.

It is time to realize that improving our social lives and cultivating our minds can be at least as important for health and longevity as diet and exercise.

Final line in book ”BE SOCIAL, CARE FOR OTHERS AND ENJOY LIFE!” Let’s all try to apply the recommendations to our lives.

Dr. Eichelberger is retired from Greenwood Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Montgomery Family Practice Residency Program. He is is a physician volunteer with Hospice and Palliative Care of the Piedmont. Send comments to: The Doctor’s Prescription, P.O. Box 36, Ninety Six, SC 29666.