Valentine's Day: Good for the Heart
Chocolate, red wine, and other expressions of love can be good for you.
Cupid's Arrow continued...
- Help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries.
- Protect against heart disease.
- Boost levels of antibodies in the body.
- Reduce levels of stress chemicals, which can damage the immune system.
- Lower risk of disease in general.
- Decrease risk of early death.
- Lengthen life.
Love's protective effect against heart disease has been tested
in several settings.
Researchers who kept track of Italian American immigrants in
Roseto, Penn., found that people who maintained close family ties as in their
homeland tended to have less incidence of heart disease compared with other
American communities, even though they ate a high-fat diet.
"Gradually, over time, a certain percentage of these
(Italian American) families started to adopt more American ways -- getting more
interested in the fast life, fancy cars, and country club memberships -- and
they started getting the same incidence of heart disease as people who had been
in this country," says Justice.
A long-term study was also done on Japanese Americans who moved
to Hawaii and California, and the results were similar. Immigrants who adopted
more American ways tended to have more incidence of heart disease compared with
those who kept their traditional close family ties.
One theory explaining love's effect on physical health involves
human nature. "It's instinctual to have this need for touching and
talking," says Justice. He says the personal contact turns on a part of the
nervous system, which has a calming effect, and allows for a smaller amount
stress chemicals in the body.
In addition, the human touch can lower blood pressure, and
illicit a sense of safety, connection, and comfort, says Carol Rinkleib
Ellison, PhD, author of Women's Sexualities, and a psychologist in
"People who do affirm their love for each other before
going to sleep tend to sleep more deeply, in a more relaxed way, and they'll
wake in the morning more refreshed, in a better mood, and, therefore, they'll
get along better," says Ellison.
Real life may not always be as simple, but experts do agree
that having less stress is good for the health of the overall body, including
Gifts From and for the Heart
Offering your sweetie love, red wine, and chocolate for
Valentine's Day may, indeed, help you score big in the heart department. But
romantic and healthy gift giving need not be boring.
Below are some ideas from the health experts interviewed by
WebMD to help get hearts pumping.
- Give a fruit basket, or sign up your loved one for a fruit-of-the-month
club that delivers fresh produce to doorsteps. Red fruits such a strawberries,
cherries, and ruby red grapefruits are rich in antioxidants, says Sass.
- Give your loved one a pedometer. It's a fun tool that can help your honey
see his or her fitness progress. After all, exercise is good for the heart.
Moores suggests setting up a date to walk together.
- Take a field trip to do something with one another, rather than buying a
material object. It's a chance to create a new experience or re-live an old one
together, says Ellison.
- Give a funny book, as humor is good for the heart, says Sass.