No matter whether you’re married, dating or single (or something in between), Valentine’s Day is about celebrating the people you love. For me, the holiday is a chance to pause and focus on how lucky I am to share my life with my wonderful wife, Lisa, and my four children. This year I’m overflowing with even more love, since I’m going to meet my very first grandchild soon.
But Valentine’s Day isn’t the only reason that February is good for your heart – it’s also National Heart Month. After all, the best way to honor your loved ones is to take care of your own health and help them take care of theirs. This Valentine’s Day, try out these five ways to nourish your heart and your love life at the same time:
1. Take a romantic walk: Getting enough physical activity is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy, but who said you had to go it alone? Plan a beautiful walk, jog or other fun activity with a loved one. Not only will you get to spend some quality time together, but you’ll help build a stronger heart (in more ways than one).
2. Drink a glass of red wine: Red wine contains a variety of substances including antioxidants and a compound called resveratrol that studies suggest are good for your heart. Drinking red wine in moderation (no more than one four-ounce glass of wine a day for women and one to two four-ounce glasses for men) may help lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Don’t start drinking if you don’t normally consume alcohol, but otherwise, a glass of red wine with your Valentine’s Day dinner can be both romantic and heart-friendly.
3. Put down your cigarettes: Only 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure drop, reducing the stress on your heart and blood vessels. And one year after quitting, your risk of heart disease (the leading killer of both men and women) is half of what it was when you were smoking. Plus – tossing out your cigarettes will help you get rid of that bad smoker’s breath and prevent the wrinkles and stained teeth that long-term smoking can cause, which your valentine will surely appreciate.
4. Give yourself a break: Over time, stress can contribute to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and drive you toward unhealthy behaviors like smoking, overeating and excessive drinking that wear on your heart. An easy way to give yourself a break this Valentine’s Day is to create a screen-free zone – put away your phone, tablet and/or computer where you can’t hear or see them and spend some face time with your loved ones instead.
5. Indulge: Many foods that have been used for centuries as aphrodisiacs are also good for your heart. If you’re looking to prepare a Valentine’s Day treat for yourself or a partner, try including some dark chocolate, avocado or almonds, which may help boost good cholesterol and repair damage from inflammation. These decadent foods might just make your Valentine’s Day extra satisfying.