Do you want to be healthier? Of course you do. Nutritionists, doctors, and other experts tell us the secret to achieving better health is a well-balanced diet. Some say that yoga is the way to go, while others advocate exercising 30 minutes each day. There’s no question that nutrition, lifestyle, and physical activity play important roles in our overall health, but there is another often-overlooked factor: your relationships.
Whether you’ve just met or your connection runs deep, your relationships with others – romantic or otherwise – significantly affect your health and well-being. Relationships between spouses, parents and children, coworkers, and even close friends have the power to make or break your body’s defenses against disease. While the effects may vary, both men and women enjoy countless health benefits from a happy relationship. A tumultuous or dangerous one, on the other hand, can wreak havoc on your body.
Benefits of Healthy Relationships
Studies show that people in happy, healthy relationships enjoy the following perks:
· Lowered risk of coronary heart disease
· Higher success rates when making major lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, losing weight, or starting an exercise regimen
· Better outcomes from life-threatening illnesses such as cancer
Dangers of Toxic Relationships
Just as healthy relationships are associated with a plethora of health benefits, unhealthy ones have been known to cause major problems. When an important relationship is unhealthy or stressful:
· Men and women are at a significantly higher risk for cardiac events like heart attacks
· Women are 2.9 times more likely to have a heart attack, need heart surgery, or die of heart disease
· Both genders tend to have less effective immune systems than those in happy marriages
How to Identify an Unhealthy Relationship
These indicators will help you distinguish a healthy relationship from a problematic one so you can take steps to resolve – or dissolve – a potential health hazard in your life.
· Leave you feeling invigorated
· Make you feel better about yourself
· Are physically and emotionally safe
· Have balanced give and take on both sides
· Are dominated by jealousy
· Are marked by systematic distrust
· Make you feel consistently guilty or blamed for problems
· Are often filled with demeaning comments and criticisms
Of course, no relationship is perfect. There are times when practically every relationship goes through rough patches marked by the “unhealthy” factors above. But the “healthy” markers must dramatically outweigh these instances when you assess your relationship as a whole. If they don’t, you could be in an unhealthy relationship that may be putting you at risk for significant health issues if left to fester. A strained relationship can often benefit from a trusted mediator or counselor who can help you begin the healing process.
In extreme situations, like domestic violence, the best choice is to get out. It’s all too common for victims of incredibly toxic relationships to feel trapped by violence, bullying, or intimidation techniques. The presence of children can make it even more difficult, yet infinitely more critical, to leave. Know the warning signs of domestic violence, and reach out to someone you trust if your partner is abusing you. Organizations like PAVE exist to help victims of domestic violence in Dodge County seek safety. You can also turn to your women’s health care provider if you have concerns about your relationships and how they may be affecting your health.
Our relationships with others are the foundation of our lives. They excite us, challenge us, reward us, and affect us. Making decisions to nurture the healthy relationships in our lives and leave the unhealthy ones behind can make all the difference in our health and quality of life for years to come.
Founded in 1995, Beaver Dam Women’s Health (BDWH) is a women’s health clinic dedicated to providing the Dodge County community with personalized and accessible women’s health care that caters to their specific medical needs. Call 920-885-6090 for more information.