The perfect Valentine’s gift? A healthy heart that you can celebrate for years to come!
This time of year, hearts of all shapes and sizes seem to be everywhere: supermarkets, drug stores, even gas stations are packed with heart-shaped gifts for your Valentine. Even food gets in on the act. There are heart-shaped pancakes and pizzas, not to mention all the themed cookies, cakes, and candies. Why is this day celebrating love and everything heart-shaped terrible for our actual hearts? Shouldn’t we be extra good to our hearts on Valentine’s Day?
After all, February is also host to American Heart Month, and heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Why not try these heart healthy tips to be good to your heart and your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day!
Our 10 Heart-Healthy Tips For Valentine’s Day:
Enjoy the winter months with delicious, comforting, and easy healthy dinner recipes..
- Raise a Glass: What’s Valentine’s Day without a little wining and dining? Research has shown that moderate consumption of red wine is part of a heart-healthy diet. The flavonoids in red wine have an antioxidant effect, can help raise good cholesterol and prevent blood clotting. As a general rule, the sweeter the wine, the lower the flavonoid levels. Stick with reds like Pinot Noirs and Cabernets, or any Bordeaux. Of course, the American Heart Association recommends no more than one drink (4 oz. of wine) per day for women, and two for men.
- Eat the Chocolate: 58 million pounds of chocolate are sold the week of Valentine’s Day! While chocolate isn’t generally considered a heart-healthy food, certain variations of the sweet treat can reduce inflammation and risk of heart disease. Only dark chocolate meets the criteria – aim for a cocoa level of 60-70%. As always, moderation is key. Studies show that people who take time to savor the chocolate are satisfied with smaller servings. Whip up a batch of dark chocolate-covered strawberries for an antioxidant-packed treat.
- Believe in the Power of Love: Love is more than a wonderful feeling – it has very real health benefits as well. One of the best ways to keep your heart healthy is to simply be in love. Studies of loving relationships (marriage, family, friendship) show that they boost levels of antibodies and lower stress hormones.
- Switch to Olive Oil: Olive oil can be substituted for butter in most recipes, and is a good source of monounsaturated fats – which reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Use extra-virgin olive oil in place of butter when cooking your favorite romantic meal.
- Stay home: Cooking at home allows you to better control the quantity and quality of what you’re eating. Make it a date and take some cooking classes with your Valentine, and learn to make some new heart-healthy meals. If you do eat out, be mindful of the fat and sodium content of your order, and take some leftovers home – restaurant portions are usually huge!
- Take a Romantic Stroll: Physical exercise is key to heart health. Take a long, romantic walk with your sweetheart – not just for Valentine’s Day, but make it a regular habit. Try to squeeze in a 30 minute walk 5 times/week.
- Unwind: Staying stress-free is key to keeping your heart healthy. Find a relaxing hobby to enjoy – crocheting, cooking, woodworking – whatever helps relieve your stress. Read aloud, sip some tea, just make sure to set aside some time each day to decompress. And that’s not just a good heart health tip, but good advice for maintaining relationships as well!
- Count Your Blessings: Just as worry and anger lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, their opposites – mindfulness and calm – contribute to better health and general well-being. Deep breathing and meditation also helps lower blood pressure.
- Hit the Dance Floor: Dancing is not only romantic, it’s also a heart healthy workout. Sign up for a dance class, or just turn up some tunes and get shaking – dancing can burn over 200 calories an hour!
- Get Between the Sheets: It’s Valentine’s Day after all. It turns out that sex not only adds pleasure to your life – but can add years to it as well. According to a study published by the American Journal of Cardiology, men who had sex at least twice a week were less likely to develop heart disease than men who only had sex once a month. Sex can also keep your heart healthy by releasing endorphins and easing stress.
Are you ready to give your heart the best Valentine’s Day ever? These 10 heart healthy tips will get you off to a great start, but it’s also important to “know your numbers” – your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Sign up for a biometric screening to find out if you need to take any other heart health actions.