Study shows link between social support and cardiovascular health
A HIGH level of social support is associated with better cardiovascular health, reduced mortality and overall greater quality of life. This is one of the findings of a study conducted by epidemiologist and assistant lecturer at the Caribbean Institute for Health Research at The University of the West Indies, Alphonso Blake.
The main objective of the study was to evaluate the association between social support and ideal cardiovascular health (ICH) among urban Jamaicans.
Blake explained that ICH is built on the adage that ‘prevention is better than cure’, and that the American Heart Association (AHA) in 2010 identified seven components that would assist persons to live in better health, once they can achieve them.
“My study is focused on looking at ideal cardiovascular health and how social support can help persons to attain these seven simple approaches to live with better health for longer,” Blake said.
The components are: no smoking; body size having a body-mass index of less than 25kg per metre-squared, doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, having healthy dietary practices, having a normal blood pressure, having a normal glucose level and having a normal cholesterol level.
Blake, who received the award for most impactful oral presentation at the National Health Research Conference 2021, explained that a cross-sectional study was conducted among Jamaicans living in urban areas within the South-East Regional Health Authority.
Socio-demographic data and information on the AHA-classified seven components of a healthy lifestyle were collected.
Ideal cardiovascular health was defined as having optimal levels of greater than or equal to five of these characteristics using the AHA definitions (ICH-5).
Social support exposure variables that were used to determine the levels of social support included: number of friends (network size), friends willing to provide loans (instrumental support) and friends providing advice (informational support).
Analysis was then used to create a social-support score using the three variables, and the association between ICH-5 and social-support score determined.
Blake explained the term social support and the connections that were identified.
“This looks at the perception that persons have of being cared for, being accepted by their friends, being provided for with assistance from people. These persons could be their family members, their friends, their church family or work family,” he noted.