Romance and Heart Health

Positive relationships can have a definite effect on blood pressure, circulation, weight and sleep quality

By Allison Stanton

Around the world, the heart shape is recognized as a sign of love.

This symbol and its meaning are especially popular this month, as store shelves are bursting with heart-shaped boxes of candy, pillows and other Valentine’s Day treats.

Interestingly, love can also have a positive impact on the heart — not the box of candy at the store, but the one you have beating inside your chest.

Marina Mitchell, BSN, RN and a Cardiac/CHF Educator at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center, says love and romance have a number of positive effects on heart health.

“Romance can help lower stress levels and blood pressure while also increasing circulation, improving sleep and even helping to maintain our body weight,” Marina notes.

For those who have not been hit by Cupid’s arrow recently, Marina says not to worry — you can definitely also experience positive health benefits by spending time with good friends, taking care of pets or even exchanging some kind words with the cashier at the supermarket.

“We absolutely should be engaging in positive relationships in general; doing so can help release hormones and neurotransmitters that boost our spirits and help reduce the risk of depression,” Marina says.

“Whether it’s a friend or a romantic partner, it is joyful to be engaged with another person, and as humans, we are meant to do that. We are all designed to have relationships with others and we need them just as we do food, air or water.”

For those who have a current health condition, Marina says she discourages anyone from being worried about being in an intimate and active relationship.

“If you can climb one or two flights of stairs or do activities that burn 200 calories every 30 minutes and have been told by your doctor that you are safe for regular activity, then you are also safe for intimate relationships.”

And, as news stories sometimes illustrate, Marina says it is definitely possible to die from a broken heart.

“It is a natural process called Takotsubo syndrome that can happen when we experience sudden stress or loss. It makes such a large impact on the heart that it can cause it to enlarge and not pump efficiently. In some cases, it can lead to the demise of the person,” Marina says.

“While we don’t fully understand it, we do recognize that it is something that happens, and people should not be afraid of it as the risk of death is low.”

Marina will present a class called “Romance & Your Heart” from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 16. Registration is required to attend this class.

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