Love is letting down your guard.
Love is trusting your heart to another.
Love is joy.
Love is peace.
Love is a risk worth taking.
Love is an indescribable feeling.
February is not only heart health month, but also Valentine’s Day. And what do we associate with Valentine’s Day? Love, hearts, the colours red and pink, roses, kisses and all that mushy stuff!
I will never forget the first valentine’s day with my high school boyfriend. It was sooooo romantic. I had prepared a very special dinner for him. Everything was just right. I set the table with heart patterned place mats, lit candles, bought him a valentines card, red roses and a heart shaped box of his favourite chocolates. The lights were dim, I had our favourite music playing and I felt like I had outdone myself. Looking back, I had. I was only 18 and I had this romance thing dialed. I clearly grew up watching too many reruns of the 80’s hits Dirty Dancing and Flashdance!
The feeling of doing something for someone else with such deep kindness and care made my heart go pitter patter way back then and still does. If you’ve been there, either on the giving or the receiving end, you get it. The love you feel for those very special people in your life is an indescribable feeling. I don’t think you can ever fully explain it, but you know it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
What better time of the year to talk about love than February?
February is a great time to focus on giving and receiving love but also how to keep your heart strong and healthy. Without our hearts how would we feel love? I know, I know, love is not actually felt in our hearts but for the sake of Valentine’s Day, I’m rolling with it.
Here are 3 ways you can improve your heart health this year:
1. Consult With Cupid
According to classical mythology, Cupid is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection. Most people have seen Cupid in images as a winged cherub with a bow & arrow. Son of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, his role was to spread messages of love throughout the land.
How does this relate to heart health you might ask? Well, the simple act of falling in love with another human being has all sorts of heart health benefits worth noting. In fact, love protects us against heart disease, boosts our level of antibodies important for fighting disease, increases our life span, reduces those stress chemicals that can damage our immune system, reduces your overall risk for disease and your risk for early death. Wowza!
We can give Cupid a big high five for helping spread feelings of love around the world and keeping our hearts in good shape. What I’m saying is, love might be worth the risk if you’ve been single for a long time. Be open to the possibility!
2. Red Is Romantic
Red roses, red greeting cards, red cinnamon hearts and of course, red wine. Red wine has faced much controversy over the years as to whether or not it actually has health benefits. I believe that drinking or eating ANYTHING in excess has ill effects on our bodies, so it comes down to quantity. If you enjoy all of life’s little pleasures in moderation, then anything can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
Whether or not you decide to go over the top, like I did when I was 18, and make a special Valentine’s day dinner for your loved one, some type of beverage will surely be part of your menu. Red wine is often a top choice, especially around Valentines day. Regardless of which side of the red wine fence you sit, the good news is that red wine contains an abundance of flavonoids, a fancy name for antioxidants. Flavonoids are what comes from the skins of grapes and these little powerhouses do a great job of protecting your cells against free radical damage. When you get too many free radicals floating around in your bloodstream they start to damage your good cells and this leads to health problems. Not only does red wine contain antioxidants that benefit your heart, but it also helps to prevent blood clotting!
Not an alcohol drinker? No problem. You can still enjoy the heart healthy benefits of flavonoids by choosing things like concord grape, pomegranate and blueberry juices. Add a little club soda or sparkling water and you’re set!
3. Indulge In Dark
I am slightly shy to admit that I am a total chocoholic. I have had a sweet tooth since I was little. I’ve tried to kick my chocolate loving habit many times but it returns to haunt me despite my best efforts. What I have come to realize is that as long as I make conscious and wise choices most days, chocolate will always remain a part of my life and that’s OK!
The good news is that with age comes maturity and our taste buds change. I now long for good quality chocolate. My old faves, Reese Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers Bars, are only enjoyed once or twice a year. I now opt for Fair Trade, 60% or greater cocoa based, sea salt or roasted almond chocolate bars. Each tiny square melts in my mouth, doesn’t give me a crazy sugar crash, AND these bars actually have heart healthy benefits! Yep, my guilty pleasure contains heart healthy flavonoids, increases our good cholesterol (HDL) while helping reduce the bad (LDL) and dark chocolate improves the flexibility of your arteries and lining of your veins. Like everything, choose wisely and eat responsibly.
Looking for more ways to improve your heart healthy ways? Things like moving your body daily through exercise, eating antioxidant rich foods such as fruits and veggies, decreasing your meat and salt intake, keeping your stress levels down, your alcohol consumption in check, quitting smoking, and enjoying the gift of giving and receiving love will all do wonders.
No matter how you choose to spend your Valentine’s Day or celebrate heart health month, be sure to indulge in things that help keep your heart singing, your body happy and your love life growing!