It’s official: the store shelves have gone from a holly-jolly festive wonderland to a candy-covered explosion of red and pink, which means Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.
Every 14th of February, the hopeless romantics lean right into the infatuation of Cupid’s most celebrated day of the year, while the more pessimistic bunch roll their eyes at corporate exploitation of a day that doesn’t even get them a day off work. Despite your stance on the amorous holiday, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of gifts, date nights, and relationship statuses, and forget that hearts are more than just the symbol of love, they’re the muscle that keeps your body going.
It’s fairly common knowledge that eating healthy and exercising are the most effective ways of maintaining a healthy heart, but there are also some lesser-known (and more enjoyable) ways to keep your ticker strong. Single, in a relationship, or “it’s complicated”, here are some ways to treat yourself on Valentine’s Day while doing something good for your heart.
- drink some wine
Yep, you read it correctly. According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking red wine can be good for your heart. Now before you get too crazy, note that it’s not recommended that you start drinking if you’re not a drinker or that you drink in excessive amounts—that can actually lead to heart problems—but experts have found a (not fully understood) link between red wine and a smaller number of heart attacks.
While the science isn’t totally sound, it’s thought that wine can prevent artery damage caused by LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and raise levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol), among other things.
In fact, studies have shown that a variety of alcohols, including beer and spirits can also be good for the heart. So, no matter your plans this Valentine’s Day, take no guilt in pouring yourself a nice glass of your favorite bevvy.
- Tell jokes
Let’s be real, you are your own biggest fan when it comes to telling jokes- and that’s good because experts say that laughing is a proven way to keep your heart healthy. Laughing can provide several long term benefits including reducing stress, preventing cholesterol buildup by increasing your blood flow, and strengthening your immune system—and that’s not all.
According to the Heart Foundation, laughing actually counts as cardio. (Say what!?) So this Valentine’s Day if your plans involve cuddling up on the couch to watch a comedy special, hanging out with the funniest person you know, or just spouting off some good puns, remember that with each laugh you’re burning calories, so don’t feel bad about taking the holiday off from hitting the gym.
- add cinnamon to your diet
Those heart-shaped, Valentine’s Day special candies may have been on to something. Cinnamon is actually very beneficial to your heart. There are different types of cinnamon, and the verdict is out on which type is better for you, but studies have shown that cinnamon can not only reduce the risk of heart disease but also has anti-inflammatory properties, shows health benefits for diabetics, provides defense against certain types of cancer and even fights some infections, among other things.
If that’s not a reason to add a little of this spice to your life, I don’t know what is. Remember, like anything, it’s only good for you in moderation so don’t go resurrecting the cinnamon challenge. And just so we’re totally clear, those little red cinnamon heart candies are in fact, mostly sugar, and don’t contain real cinnamon, so if you’re using them as an excuse to load up on sugar this February, please leave us out of it.
- Shout, Sing, Rant, Rave
I know what you’re thinking, going wild and crazy will help my heart? Well essentially, yes. This one is a fairly common tip but too much stress is bad for the heart. It can lead to developing poor health habits and higher blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart problems. Managing your stress is an essential part of taking care of your heart.
Listening to music, singing, dancing, meditating, or enjoying a hobby are all common and fun ways to reduce stress. But I get it, sometimes you just need to scream or go off on a rant, and here’s the good news- that can actually reduce stress levels by a significant amount too. So whether you’re stressed about the upcoming holiday of love or just need some TLC, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to take a load off and do something fun to help your heart.
- Brush your teeth
First, I hope that you are already doing this. Second, I hear you, this one sounds like an odd way to help your heart, right? Well, it’s actually been confirmed that good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day will prevent your risk of heart disease—by three times that of people who brush their teeth for less time. Gum inflammation, disease, and infection caused by poor oral hygiene are all linked to heart disease.
By brushing your teeth, you reduce the bacteria in the bloodstream and prevent this from happening. This doesn’t mean that if you don’t brush your teeth you’ll end up with heart problems, but let’s just say brushing your pearly whites won’t hurt you for more than a few reasons. Whether you’re looking for fresh, smooch-ready breath or cavity prevention from the excessive amounts of candy consumed this Cupid’s Day, brushing your teeth is the place to start and will even do some good for your ol’ blood pumper.
Oh, and ICYM the wonders of cinnamon earlier in the list, you can add helping oral health to its list of benefits.
- Get a Puppy
We all know that dogs are good for the soul, but science is now saying that they could be good for the heart too! Apparently owning a dog can help combat stress and lead to developing healthy heart habits, such as regular exercising, as well as lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure on average, compared to non-owners, which goes hand in hand with the lifestyle.
They say that owning a dog leads to “increased happiness”, and frankly, I wouldn’t disagree. To help out your heart, consider spending this Valentine’s Day with your furry friends or maybe even adding one to your family… After all, this holiday is all about love and who knows more about love than a dog?
- Heartfelt Hugs (Pun Intended)
There are a plethora of benefits to hugging—including the well-being of your heart. Studies have shown that hugging reduces stress levels and lowers blood pressure, both of which directly affect the heart. Simple as that. And if doing good for your heart doesn’t convince you to seek out the occasional hug, it’s also been shown that hugging boosts your immune system, reduces certain types of pain, slows signs of aging, and improves your psychological welfare—mostly due to the fact that hugging releases oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin (A.K.A. all the feel-good hormones).
As a bonus, if you hug for longer than six seconds, those oxytocin and serotonin hormones are being released at their maximum output. So, take advantage of the excuse that the touchy-feely holiday provides to give your loved ones a squeeze this Valentine’s Day.
- eat chocolate
Yes, the classic Valentine’s Day trope of giving your sweetheart a box of chocolates does have some merit to it. Not only does the delicious substance release the body’s happy hormone and “love molecule” (fitting for our favorite February holiday), but it can improve heart health too! The studies are thin on this one, but the general thought of experts is that cocoa—the main ingredient in dark and milk chocolate—contains antioxidants that lower the risk of heart disease.
According to the Mayo Clinic, chocolate may “help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function”. Now, not to put a damper on the news I’ve just given you, but before you celebrate this medical marvel by emptying a chocolate fountain, let’s not forget the excessive amounts of sugar, fat, and other health-harmful ingredients that the average consumer bought chocolate contains.
To reap possible benefits of chocolate remember to only eat it in healthy moderation and aim for the highest cocoa percentage. That being said, feel free to drop the calorie counting and indulge guilt-free in the sweet treat from time to time—especially this Valentine’s Day. After all, it’s good for the heart.
So, there you have it. Some easy and enjoyable ways of treating your heart this Valentine’s Day. Wherever you are celebrating (or avoiding) the holiday from, take care of yourself and consider testing out these heart-helping tips—and remember: the key is moderation!
Whether spending the day by yourself, with a group of your friends, your kids, or that special someone, don’t forget to show some love physically and emotionally to your heart—on Valentine’s Day and every day. Happy Heart Day, y’all.