Taking Care of Heart Health this Valentine’s Day
As we approach Valentine’s Day, some of us may be making special plans with loved ones while others may take the time to express self-love. Coincidentally (or not!), February is also Heart Health Month. Today we take a dive into matters of the heart, ranging from the benefits of cuddles to aphrodisiacs that work to the practice of self-affirmations and more!
Hugging or cuddling reduces blood pressure and heart rate.1 As high blood pressure and heart rate are key risk factors for heart disease, even a 20-second hug supports our heart health, not to mention our well-being!
Dark chocolate really can help our heart. There are few foods as synonymous with Valentine’s Day as chocolate. Dark chocolate is high in flavanols (a type of flavonoid) that is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.2 But make sure it’s dark chocolate and remember moderation.
Practicing self-affirmations has not only been shown to improve well-being and support positive behaviour change, but it’s now shown to affect the neural pathways of the brain!3 Self-affirmation is a form of self-talk focused on self-worth, for example by verbalizing positive traits or expressing gratitude to oneself.
Vitamin K is Key! Although often overlooked, studies show that people with lots of Vitamin K have a whopping 34% lower risk of heart disease from atherosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels).4 Eat your green veg and check your nutrient status.
Holding hands releases a hormone called “oxytocin”, which decreases stress and encourages feelings of closeness and safety.5 Not surprisingly, this was not seen when holding hands with a stranger, but it was seen with all types of relationships – not just romantic ones.
Aphrodisiacs have been discussed for thousands of years. Unfortunately, some popular ones like oysters don’t have scientific evidence but there are many herbs that do. Panax ginseng, popular in TCM, encourages nitric oxide release. This relaxes blood vessels and promotes circulation for a dual effect of helping the heart and helping achieve erections.6 Win-win!
Take it to the bedroom. Sex has a host of different health benefits, especially for heart health. It’s a form of exercise, it relieves stress, and modulates hormone levels. Regular sex can even boost cardioprotective biomarkers.7
Kangaroo care is the act of positioning a newborn on their mother’s chest with skin-to-skin contact. This simple act is proven to help stabilize the baby’s heart rate and respiratory rate while providing bonding (thanks to oxytocin again) between mother and child.8,9
Functional Medicine screening for heart health is important in understanding your risk, implementing prevention before treatment, and intervening early when necessary. We recommend taking small steps today to prevent taking big steps, like daily medication, down the road.
From all of us at LifeHub, here’s to a happy Valentine’s day no matter what kind of love you’re celebrating.
Contact us to learn more about how to promote heart health for you and your loved ones.
- Light KC, Grewen KM, Amico JA. More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biol Psychol. 2005;69(1):5-21. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.11.002
- American Heart Association News. Are there health benefits from chocolate? Heart.org. 2019. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/02/12/are-there-health-benefits-from-chocolate.
- Cascio CN, O’Donnell MB, Tinney FJ, et al. Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2016;11(4):621-629. doi:10.1093/scan/nsv136
- Bellinge JW, Dalgaard F, Murray K, et al. Vitamin K Intake and Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease in the Danish Diet Cancer and Health Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2021;10(16):e020551. doi:10.1161/JAHA.120.020551
- Coan JA, Beckes L, Gonzalez MZ, Maresh EL, Brown CL, Hasselmo K. Relationship status and perceived support in the social regulation of neural responses to threat. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2017;12(10):1574-1583. doi:10.1093/scan/nsx091
- Kotta S, Ansari SH, Ali J. Exploring scientifically proven herbal aphrodisiacs. Pharmacogn Rev. 2013;7(13):1-10. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.112832
- Liu H, Waite LJ, Shen S, Wang DH. Is Sex Good for Your Health? A National Study on Partnered Sexuality and Cardiovascular Risk among Older Men and Women. J Health Soc Behav. 2016;57(3):276-296. doi:10.1177/0022146516661597
- Ludington-Hoe SM, Hadeed AJ, Anderson GC. Physiologic responses to skin-to-skin contact in hospitalized premature infants. J Perinatol. 1991;11(1):19-24.
- Boundy EO, Dastjerdi R, Spiegelman D, et al. Kangaroo Mother Care and Neonatal Outcomes: A Meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 2016;137(1):e20152238. doi:10.1542/peds.2015-2238
Rachel Erwin, Nutritionist & Content Writer
Rachel is a Nutritionist with a BSc in Biology and Global Health from the University of Toronto, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Human Nutrition from the University of Ulster. She has counselled and educated clients in Hong Kong, whose health goals ranged from weight loss to detox and hormone balancing. Her love of writing led her to complete ‘Writing in the Sciences’, offered by Stanford University, and since then she has contributed several evidence-based health articles to various publications.