Getting involved with voluntary work is a natural way to lower blood pressure.
Research from Carnegie Mellon University shows that older people who volunteer for at least 200 hours a year are 40 percent less likely to get high blood pressure. In a press release, the university suggests that volunteer work may be an effective non-drug option to help prevent the condition that affects around 65 million Americans and is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.
“Everyday, we are learning more about how negative lifestyle factors like poor diet and lack of exercise increase hypertension risk,” said Rodlescia S. Sneed, lead author of the study. “Here, we wanted to determine if a positive lifestyle factor like volunteer work could actually reduce disease risk. And, the results give older adults an example of something that they can actively do to remain healthy and age successfully.”
Sneed and colleges studied 1,164 adults aged 51 to 91 across the U.S. The participants were interviewed in 2006 and again in 2010, and all had normal blood pressure levels at the first interview. Volunteerism, various social and psychological factors, and blood pressure were measured each time.
Those who reported at least 200 hours of volunteer work during the initial interview were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who did not volunteer when evaluated four years later. Increased protection from hypertension was associated with the amount of time spent volunteering, not the type of activity.
According to Sneed, “social transitions like retirement, bereavement and the departure of children from the home often leave older adults with fewer natural opportunities for social interaction,” therefore volunteering may provide social connections older people might not have otherwise had. She added that there is strong evidence that “having good social connections promotes healthy aging and reduces risk for a number of negative health outcomes.”