Hearts, Love and Health
February 13, 2018
By Karen Wilkinson, RN, NHA, CLNC – CareerSmart Learning Contributor
In The Story of My Life, a young Helen Keller asks her teacher, “What is love?” She wrote that her teacher drew her close and said, “It is here,” pointing to my heart, whose beats I was conscious of for the first time.”
The beat of a human heart….the very essence of our existence and the symbolic center of love. Just as a young Helen Keller tried to understand the concept of heart and love, so have humans throughout time. Most agree that love is good for us. Researchers have shown that when first love blossoms into a long-term relationship, it can actually benefit our heart. A recent study that took place in Finland found, that for married men and women, there was a significantly lower risk of having and/or dying from a heart attack compared to those who are single. According to Julie Damp, M.D., a cardiologist with Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute, there is a theory, although unproven, that “people who are in loving relationships may experience neuro-hormonal changes that have positive effects on the body, including the cardiovascular system.”
February is most often associated with Valentine’s Day and love, but it is also American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about heart health. It serves as a reminder that we need to care for our own hearts, and help educate others about how to care for theirs. Heart disease can be prevented, but the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion warns us that heart disease remains the number one cause of death for men and women in the United States, resulting in one of every four deaths.
Keeping our hearts healthy involves several common-sense recommendations to help prevent heart disease: eat a healthy diet, become physically active, maintain a healthy weight, stop smoking, control blood pressure and cholesterol levels, drink alcohol in moderation and manage stress. And, according to Dr. Damp, enjoying some dark chocolates, which contain healthy antioxidants, “won’t hurt either”. She states, “Dark chocolate has been shown to be associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels and improvement in the way your blood vessels dilate and relax”.
You can also make a difference by hosting an American Heart Month event at a school or library, a CPR training event in your community, a lunchtime walking group with your co-workers, or something as simple as demonstrating or sharing a heart-healthy recipe with friends. Getting involved in community activities is a great way to help raise awareness about heart health.
For more information about heart health, please visit our on-line course on Cardiac Nutrition.
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Effects of Chronic Stress on Brain and Body – 1.0 CEU/contact hr
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 Keller, H. (2000). The Story of My Life. Project Gutenburg EBook #2397. Retrieved from http://www.cbseacademic.in/web_material/doc/The%20Story%20of%20My%20Life,%20by%20Helen%20Keller.pdf
[2,5,6] Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Love is good for the heart, cardiologist says. Science Daily, 13 February 2014. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140213095048.htm
 Healthfinder.gov. (2018). February: American Heart Month. Retrieved from https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/FebruaryToolkit.aspx
 Healthfinder.gov. (2018). Keep Your Heart Healthy. Retrieved from https://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditions-and-diseases/heart-health/keep-your-heart-healthy
 Healthfinder.gov. February: American Heart Month. Get Involved. Retrieved from https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/FebruaryToolkit.aspx