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The Heart Healthy Benefits of Valentine's Day

A look at Valentine's traditions to adopt all year long for better heart health.

Valentine’s Day conjures up images of the color red, chocolate hearts, rose bouquets and maybe a romantic toast. While all these help us celebrate a holiday to honor those we love, it’s also an opportunity to do something good for yourself; more specifically, your heart.

According to mental health professionals, the quality of your relationships has significant impact on your overall health. Excessive stress is a risk factor in heart disease. Some cardiologists believe anger and stress actually generate heart attack and stroke because of the hormones associated with those emotions. Cortisol and adrenaline are produced in anxious situations. But when you are stressed too much, there is an excess of these hormones, which can have a negative impact on the body. Being constantly stressed out is also correlated with elevated blood pressure, another heart disease risk. 

While you can’t avoid all conflict, it has been shown in studies that social support can help shield you from some of the stress. Talking out your problems with someone, going out with a group of friends to release tension, or simply being in the company of others can go a long way to cut down on negative emotions. Even if you just have one supportive person in your life, he/she can make a difference. 

If you find yourself feeling lonely on Valentine’s Day, don’t lock yourself inside and wallow your pity. Social isolation just breeds depression. No matter how awkward or uncomfortable you feel, make an effort to get out and talk to people, even strangers. Any amount of human connection can make you feel better about yourself and your situation.

If you’re lucky enough to have a significant other, taking part in some typical Valentine’s Day activities might be good for you and your heart. 

Taking a romantic walk with someone can be considered heart healthy. You can try exploring a new area of town, walking through your neighborhood or making use of a public park. Just remember to go at a brisk pace and devote at least 20 minutes to it. 

If you decide to give chocolate as a gift or indulge yourself, choose dark varieties. The flavonoids it contains have anti-inflammatory properities. Chocolate also helps release chemicals in your body which make you feel good. (Women dealing with post-breakup blues or that time of the month can attest to this). But, you don’t want to eat a whole box. Select a few pieces you really want to try and savor them. Mindlessly polishing off a box of chocolates (even dark chocolate) is not going to do your heart or overall health any good. 

You’ll also find flavonoids in some alcohol. So if you choose to share a romantic dinner and a bottle of wine, opt for red wines. But as everything, moderation is the key. To receive the most benefit, women should stick to one glass per day, men can indulge in two. 

The great thing about Valentine’s Day and improving your heart health is you can practice its traditions year round. Improve your personal connections by going out more. Send a card to someone out of the blue; not only will they feel good, so will you. When you indulge, try to make good decisions and include some heart healthy options. And when possible, get out of your chair and start moving: whether you walk with a co-worker to release stress or stroll with a loved one for some together time. All of these things, when done on a regular basis can add up to long-term, heart healthy benefits.

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