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When I wrote my first book — “The Longevity Code: Your Personal Prescription for a Longer, Sweeter Life” — I postulated there are five spheres that influence our lives: physical, mental, family/social, spiritual and material.

To achieve ultimate wellness, you need balance in all five spheres. The more I study the social sphere, the more I realize how important it is.

If you want to quit smoking, do it with a smoking friend. If you want to change how you eat, do it with someone who would love to do the same thing. You get the drift.

Teamwork means more than you alone and it just might make a difference. Wellness is a team sport.

A new study published in the British Medical Journal drives this point home. Researchers showed that few or poor social relationships were linked to bone loss in post-menopausal women.

Epidemiologists, the number crunchers of medicine, looked at more than 11,000 post-menopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term, ongoing study that examines risk factors for heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer and hip fractures.

A senior citizen who fractures their hip has a 50% chance they will have a problem living completely independently for the rest of their lives and a one in four chance they will die within two years of the fracture. That’s awful. Anything we can do to reduce this risk is worthwhile.

Approximately every five years during the study, these women were examined, had lab tests drawn and completed questionnaires asking where they lived, how they functioned, did they have social stresses and what sort of social support did they have. Who was there to help them if they needed help? Periodically, they had a bone density exam to see if they had osteoporosis or if they were headed down that path.

After controlling for factors we know cause bone loss such as smoking, too much booze, too little calcium and minimal physical activity, researchers found one more factor they had not accounted for — poor social relations. Having no one to talk to, no one to be with, no one to socialize with meant more bone loss.

Why should this happen? One theory is that lack of social support causes our stress hormones, such as cortisol, to go out of whack deregulating bone density. I’m not sure what this is about but I do have a solution: more social relationships.

My spin: If you know someone who needs a helping hand, give them one. That helping hand just might keep their bones healthy.

And social relationships go both ways, so what’s a win for them is a win for you. Stay well.

This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions. Any opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the views of SSM Health.

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