Doctors' Notes

Matters of the Heart: Love Does A Body Good

Our physician experts examine how good relationships can improve your health. Opening your heart can help to keep it healthy.
Credit: Thinkstock

Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents and husband and wife physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via digitalpitches@ebony.comWe promise to keep it anonymous. 


February is American Heart Month and it is a great time to remind ourselves of the importance of a heart healthy life.  This week, we continue our focus on “Matters of The Heart” and the various ways your heart affects your health.

LL Cool J was on to something in 1987 when he said “I Need Love.”  As it turns out … we all do.  Research is now showing just how important love- whether from a friend, loved one, or spouse- really is, and the impact it has on our physical health.  In fact, there is evidence that a good friend, a hearty laugh, and a shoulder to lean on can actually extend your life, cause you to lose weight, and boost your immunity just to name a few things. 

Dr. Karla says:

Research has shown that friendships not only have an important role in extending your life, but healthy relationships can also help to decrease pain, improve healing times, and provide much needed emotional health benefits.

In addition to the emotional support we receive from great relationships, the physical touch is just as important.  In fact, research has shown that the hormone oxytocin is released when hugging a friend, loved one, or family member.  Many of you may recognize this as the hormone that is released during childbirth and allows the mother to bond with her child, or as the “love hormone” that facilitates a loving relationship with others.  This hormone also helps to lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and anxiety, and therefore may help to protect against heart disease.  Find somebody to hug today! 

There can also be indirect effects of quality relationships on health by reducing the impact of stress, fostering a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as fostering a greater sense of responsibility to stay healthy.  Simply put, friends encourage you to take better care of yourself by holding you accountable and helping you to make good habits stick.  

Dr. Rob says:

Research shows that marriage seems to offer the ultimate health benefit- a longer life. Compared to those that are single, married people have longer average life spans and are less likely to die at an early age, particularly in men.  Now this isn’t a prescription for you fellas to go and put a ring on it, but you might be interested to know that marriage has been linked to a lower risk of developing cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and other chronic illnesses.

Studies also show that those elderly adults who kept in contact with a variety of friends and relatives had a 70 percent lower risk of developing dementia.  So forget all of the crossword puzzles, brain games, coffee, ginkgo biloba and all the other things we buy to preserve our memory–call a friend!  Cultivate those relationships with friends that you have been out of touch with. The research suggests that juggling relationships is just as much of a mental exercise to keep the memory fresh as anything.

Good relationships just may be helping to keep you healthy.  Studies have shown that a lack of friendship has a direct correlation with the development and progression of heart disease, recurrent heart attacks, high blood pressure, the development of cancer and delayed cancer recovery, as well as slower wound healing.

Challenge yourself to have an all new appreciation for the friends in your life…they just may be helping to keep you healthy! 

It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors:

Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Magazine and host the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook UrbanHousecallMagazine, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!