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Seniors who volunteer have lower risk of high blood pressure

June 14, 2013

Many seniors place an emphasis on staying socially engaged during retirement. There are a number of ways for them to do so, but many older adults choose volunteering. In fact, there are even organizations such as Senior Corps - operated through the Corporation for National and Community Service - that provide various volunteering opportunities for adults 55 and older. New research from Carnegie Melon University has found that not only is volunteering a good way to help out the community, but seniors who donate their time are also taking positive steps toward healthy aging.

The findings were culled from interviews with more than 1,100 adults between the ages of 51 and 91. At the beginning of the study, Researchers asked them questions on topics such as how often they volunteered and their social activity in other areas, and then followed up four years later. They also measured the participants' blood pressure each time they were interviewed. By the end of the study, the team found that subjects who volunteered at least 200 hours a year had a 40 percent lower chance of having high blood pressure. 

"As people get older, social transitions like retirement, bereavement and the departure of children from the home often leave older adults with fewer natural opportunities for social interaction," said Dr. Rodlescia S. Sneed, the study's lead author. "Participating in volunteer activities may provide older adults with social connections that they might not have otherwise. There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy aging and reduces risk for a number of negative health outcomes."

This certainly isn't the first time that social engagement has been cited as a hallmark of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. A 2011 study from the Rush University Medical Center found that seniors who were the most socially active had the lowest risk of developing disabilities.