Tue | Jun 19, 2018

Close Loving Relationships Keep the Brain Strong

Published:Sunday | March 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMKimberly Goodall

Sometimes doubt and insecurities make it hard to interact with others, but an engaging, secure, loving relationship can be an ongoing source of support and happiness. Good, healthy relationships strengthen all aspects of life, from your health to your mind and work as you get older. However, if the relationships aren't stable, it can be a tremendous drain to your brain health.

Relationship specialist Sidney McGill shares with Outlook that as one gets older, relationships take on even greater importance. Relationship becomes the staff of life, as it should always have been, and loving relationships become even more potent as our bodies and energies wane in the later years.

The connection between your brain health and the stability of your relationships may not have come to mind, but with recent researches and talks on meaningful social activities helping to keep your mind sharp and your memory strong, it is a cause for attention.




According to consultant neurologist, Francene Gayle, the old adage 'use it or lose it', also applies to social engagement, socialisation or social health.

"Research has shown that persons with regular and/or deep social ties are significantly less likely to show cognitive decline with ageing, when compared with those who are lonely and isolated. The dynamic environment of the social arena not only improves our happiness, but also improves the way our brain processes and retains information. It also improves the levels of circulating hormones in our bodies as well as our adaptive responses to physiological or environmental stress."

Gayle highlights that our degree of socialisation increases our brain's cognitive reserve, which is the brain's ability to function adequately, despite having physical damage such as chronic diseases seen in ageing.

"In fact, a Swedish study in 2000 documented a 60 per cent increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, in the socially isolated middle-aged and elderly population," she expressed.

Building and maintaining relationships is never easy, but the knowledge that you are not alone and you are loved and appreciated significantly reduces the need to be overly anxious about life's challenges. McGill notes that vulnerability is easier with those you are deeply in love with.

"There is a greater sense of acceptance of our weaknesses and even death as part of the human experience."