Volunteering: It’s good for your heart

Every February it is the heart that takes center stage. Along with gifts associated with Valentine’s Day, February is also American Heart Month.

Positive health habits recommended by cardiologists and the American Heart Association include quitting smoking, staying fit and following a heart healthy diet. Health care professionals may also soon find themselves endorsing the benefits of volunteering as another valuable tool to help maintain a healthy heart.

According to a study from Carnegie Mellon University, adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than nonvolunteers.

These findings were published last year in the Journal of Psychology and Aging. The article went on to suggest that volunteer work many be an effective nonpharmaceutical option to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. There are many volunteer opportunities for older adults who can help themselves by lending support to others.

Senior Corps is one such organization with a focus on engaging adults ages 55 and older in volunteer service. Programs that benefit from volunteer assistance from Senior Corps include the Foster Grandparent program, the Senior Companionship Program and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). Volunteer opportunities are quite varied. For example, volunteers might be needed to visit an elder who is living alone in the community, assisting a sick child having their special wish granted, help out at a food pantry, welcome people at a museum or help participate in community building at the Dayton Habitat for humanity. Senior Corps will partner the volunteer with an agency most suited to his/her interests and schedule. As well, the organization will provide training when needed, often will reimburse ancillary costs while volunteering including meals and transportation.

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Along with Senior Corps, below please find links to other organizations that provide opportunities for those interested in volunteering. Do your heart a favor, join the 3,500 other dedicated volunteers who help more than 90,000 Ohioans and lend a helping hand. As author H. Jackson Brown Jr. writes Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”

Marci Vandersluis is a licensed social worker and has a master’s degree in gerontology. She is employed as a care manager assisting older adults in the community connect with needed services. Email: marcirobinvandersluis@gmail.com.

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