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A healthy heart to heart

Amanda Burnette, MD

Valentine’s Day is a holiday devoted to matters of the heart, and what matters more than your heart health? February is American Heart Month and a time to spread awareness for cardiovascular wellness and provide tools to ensure that you are here for your partner and loved ones for many years to come.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, here are some heart-healthy recommendations perfectly suited for a day of fun and romance.

Have a glass of red wine with a heart-healthy dinner. Red wine in moderation has been shown to benefit heart health thanks to the presence of antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, can lower blood pressure, and enhance blood flow, lowering risk for cardiovascular disease. Pair a glass of red wine (5 ounces) with a meal containing lean protein, vegetables, whole grains, and fruit for dessert. Add a romantic touch for Valentine’s Day with chocolate-dipped strawberries or passion fruit.

Indulge in some dark chocolate. If you and your partner have a weakness for chocolate, 1-2 ounces of dark chocolate daily can help to satisfy your sweet tooth, while providing health benefits for your heart. That’s right, chocolate can be good for you! Studies show dark chocolate can reduce inflammation throughout the body and prevent blood clots, as well as decrease blood pressure. Dark chocolate can also improve blood vessel flexibility, lowering the risk of atherosclerosis caused by deposits of plaque and fats that impede blood flow.

Get your heart rate up together. Do physical activities with your partner that raise your heart rate for at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week, or 30 minutes daily for five days. You can go for walks together (bonus points for romance if they are long walks on the beach), go dancing, ride bicycles, take a hike, kayak, and more. Be as creative as you want! As long as you are active and limit the amount of time you are sedentary each week, your heart will enjoy the benefits of exercise, including reduced risks for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. An added benefit of exercising with your significant other is you can act as each other’s accountability partner, providing additional encouragement and support when adding activity to your daily routine.

Be affectionate. Researchers have found that when you engage in physical touch with your partner or loved one, the “love hormone” and neurotransmitter oxytocin is released. Associated with childbirth and pair-bonding between mothers and newborns, oxytocin is also released with hugs, cuddling, and other forms of physical intimacy, and can reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and stress, which put strain on the heart. Affection doesn’t have to be limited to your partner, or even people. Regularly embracing friends, your children, and even your pets (more belly rubs for the puppies) can increase oxytocin levels for a more positive wellbeing. Not a hugger? You can also produce oxytocin with good conversations, acts of kindness, regular movement, and listening to music.

Make your heart your valentine in 2022 and give it all the attention it deserves. After all, it is a relationship you can’t live without.

Sources:

Red Wine: https://utswmed.org/medblog/polyphenols/

Dark Chocolate: https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-dark-chocolate#1

Exercise: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults

Oxytocin: https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/what-to-know-about-oxytocin

https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2018/february/affection

Amanda Burnette, MD, is a physician serving patients at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence. Dr. Burnette is originally from Florence and is a member of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

HopeHealth

HopeHealth

HopeHealth educates its patients on the importance of having a health care home. As a primary care facility, HopeHealth’s medical team works to prevent and detect illness and the early onset of disease, provide routine physical examinations and promote overall healthy lifestyles.

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