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A heart shape is a symbol of love. But did you know love is actually good for your heart? Strong, healthy relationships are at the center of our social health, and how connected we feel to our friends, family and community have a big impact on our physical health.
With there being an increase in cardiac events during the month of December and recent 5% increase in heart-related deaths in the United States, it’s more important than ever to take the time to care for your heart so it can continue supporting you.
Added Weight on Your Heart
We’re in the middle of a very stressful time. Whether it’s the uneasy feeling that comes with living through a pandemic, stress from the recent election, upcoming holiday celebrations that may need to be canceled or distant this year — or a combination of all these and more, we know it’s been difficult. “Stress can weigh on your heart, so if you notice anything out of the ordinary when it comes to your health, it’s always best to discuss with your doctor as soon as possible,” explains Linus Wodi, MD, AdventHealth cardiologist.
It’s encouraging to know that the joy love brings also includes real health benefits. “All types of love can benefit your heart health,” says Dr. Wodi. “Surround yourself with love and your heart will thank you for it.” Read on to discover seven ways giving and receiving love can make your heart healthy and strong.
Loved Ones Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure
Think about the last time you hugged a loved one. We know the comfort of being with family and friends greatly impacts your mind and spirit, but what’s less obvious is the influence on your physical wellness.
To better understand the connection between relationships and heart health, researchers measured the blood pressures of people during different social interactions. They found that blood pressure tends to decrease significantly when spending quality time with loved ones. The cause of this healthy (and surprising) benefit is a simple one — emotional support.
When a Racing Heart Is Good for You
The happy boost when your partner walks in after a day at work, the exciting spark when you first connect with someone new: that little spike of electrical activity in our hearts is actually good for us. Your brain releases hormones like dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine, which helps your heart beat faster and stronger.
Hug It Out for Better Heart Health
Hugs are a great way to offer emotional support and show someone you care. But hugs do much more than boost your emotional health: They can also impact your heart health. When you hug someone, your body releases oxytocin, which is a powerful hormone that can reduce stress and lower blood pressure — both of which are important to your overall health. We know it’s been challenging lately to be unable to get close to our friends and family who don’t live in our household, so until we can get back to that, squeeze your partner, children and family pets a little more often!
Laugh It Up
We all know the impact a good belly laugh can have: It’s an instant mood lifter and puts a smile on your face. It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine, but now research can back up that claim. Recent studies show that laughter can reduce stress and help promote blood flow. In fact, participants who laughed at a funny movie had expanded blood vessels and better blood flow, similar to what the body does during aerobic exercise.
Write a Love Letter
When was the last time you wrote a love letter to your partner, friend or family member? This simple act of gratitude can help reconnect you to a loved one, and it even benefits your heart. Recent research says that healthy college students who spend 20 minutes writing notes of gratitude to friends or family members will experience drops in cholesterol levels compared to groups who write about random topics. So grab a pen and start writing. A note saying how much someone means to you will make their day and improve your health.
Keep It Positive
A positive attitude is good for the body, mind and spirit. The feel-good hormones released when you experience joy, happiness and comfort can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and promote blood flow. It can be difficult to stay positive all the time. But the next time you’re feeling down, reach out to a friend, family member or your partner. Together, you can find the positive in whatever you’re facing.
Reach Out and Hold a Hand
The excitement of holding someone’s hand for the first time can be wonderful. It’s an outward sign to the world that you’re with someone you care about, and someone who cares about you. It’s also an inward sign for your body. Holding hands can reduce stress and anxiety, which are linked to elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate and weight gain.
Find More Ways to Show Your Love
There are countless ways to show someone you care. Every relationship is unique, but you’re sure to find the right way for you to let your loved one know how you feel about them.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your family and friends is to take care of your own health. Be sure toschedule an annual exam with your primary care provider at least once a year and visit a heart care specialist when you need to.