What Does Love Do To The Heart?
Who knew there were more reasons to love Valentine’s Day than just chocolates and flowers? Plenty of studies have found that being around loved ones (including your pets!) helps keep your heart healthy. So snuggle up to your significant other and have a read of all the reasons they help keep your heart beating strong!
Relationships have a calming impact on the heart
Maybe you think your significant other raises your heart rate in annoyance more than they calm you down, but a study conducted by psychology professor Brooks Gump shows a different trend. She found that when people spend time with their significant others, their blood pressure decreases – even if the relationship isn’t perfect. Gump suspects that the decrease in blood pressure has to do with the familiarity or sense of security and comfort between partners.
Physical contact is good for the heart
Whether it’s holding hands at the shops, a foot-rub on the couch, or a good old fashioned romp – physical touch has many benefits.
Need an excuse to ask for a massage? Health benefits include: muscles unclenching, slowing your heart rate, high blood pressure falling, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol dropping. Plus, in that relaxed state, your body is able to regroup and recharge, restoring your immune system.
Hugs also help relax the body. The act of embracing floods our bodies with oxytocin, a “bonding hormone” that makes people feel secure and trusting toward each other. Women who get more hugs from their partners have higher levels of oxytocin and lower blood pressure and heart rates, according to research done at the University of North Carolina.
A healthy sex life is a good way to get the heart rate up
So you know how we say you should get your heart rate up every day for at least 20 minutes? Well, sex counts! Sexual arousal sends the heart rate higher, and the number of beats per minute reaches its peak during orgasm. But as with most exercise, it depends how vigorously you do it.
We know aerobic exercise makes the heart more efficient and capable of moving more oxygen around the body. Plus it can also be a good multi-muscle workout!
A recent study even calculated the number of calories you burn during sex. In 2013, scientists at the University of Montreal found that men burn roughly 4.2 calories per minute during sex, while women burn 3.1 calories.
Writing a love letter can reduce cholesterol!
Remember letters? Well, there may be a reason to dust off your quill and scroll and write a letter to your loved one! A study has shown that a group of students who wrote about their affection for significant friends, relatives, and/or romantic partners for 20 minutes experienced statistically significant reductions in total cholesterol.
Try writing your significant other a heartfelt Valentine’s card this year!
Pets are great for the heart
If you’re a pet owner you’ve probably noticed that spending time with your furry friend reduces your stress levels. And this is backed by research!
Just like with other humans, the power of touch also appears to be an important part of the “pet effect”. Several studies show that blood pressure goes down when a person pets a dog. Research has also shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners — probably because their pets have a calming effect on them and because dog owners tend to get more exercise.
So when your pooch tries to make you take them for a walk, remember it’s good for you too!
If all else fails, eat chocolate
No partner or pet this year? Don’t worry – chocolate will always be there and won’t break your heart (literally)!
Dark chocolate has been shown to be associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels and improvement in the way your blood vessels dilate and relax. How? Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants. These antioxidants have positive effects on many different body systems including the cardiovascular system. The high concentration of cocoa in dark chocolate appears to be what makes it so healthy!
Every year on Valentine’s Day, we celebrate Her Heart Day – a day to ask you all to check the health of your heart.
Not sure what to ask your doctor? We have even created a document that you can fill in and take with you to your GP. You can download it here.