Valentine’s Day isn’t just about chocolates and roses; it’s also a chance to show love to yourself and your partner by prioritising your heart health. Read on for 10 tips to ensure 14 February is hearty and healthy.

Plan an Active Date

Instead of the traditional dinner and a movie, plan an active date that gets your heart pumping. Activities like hiking, biking, or a scenic walk can be romantic and promote physical fitness. Exercise, particularly aerobic activities, makes the heart pump blood more efficiently. This increased workload strengthens the heart muscle, enabling it to pump blood with less effort. Exercise also improves insulin sensitivity, so your body can use insulin more effectively to control blood sugar levels. This is critical for lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, a  cardiovascular disease risk factor.

Cook a Heart-Healthy Meal Together

Cooking a meal together is a great way to connect with your partner. Choose heart-healthy dishes that include fish, leafy veggies, and whole grains. Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout) are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may minimise the risk of heart disease, lipid levels, and inflammation. Most leafy greens have high levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also low in calories and can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

When it comes to dessert, don’t turn your nose up at the idea of fruit. Fresh strawberries dipped in dark chocolate make an indulgent treat. Strawberries contain antioxidants, particularly vitamin C and various phytonutrients like anthocyanins and quercetin. These antioxidants help combat oxidative stress and reduce inflammation, both of which are factors that can contribute to heart disease. According to some studies, dark chocolate can reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow.

Savour Sensibly

Indulgence is part of Valentine’s Day, but moderation is key. If dining out, consider sharing dishes or opting for healthier menu choices. Avoid excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, which can send your calorie intake soaring faster than Cupid’s bow. Liqueurs and ciders contain a considerable amount of sugar, ranging from 10 to 30 grams or more per serving, while craft beers and specialty beers have a high carbohydrate content of between 15-20 grams of carbs or more per serving.

Gift Thoughtfully

Instead of gifting chocolates and candies, consider thoughtful alternatives like a fruit basket, a spa day, or a personalised fitness class. Show your love through gestures that promote well-being.

Set Realistic Expectations

Put less pressure on yourself or your partner to create a perfect Valentine’s Day. Stress may promote the production of stress hormones such as adrenaline, which can elevate heart rate and blood pressure. Chronic stress may lead to hypertension, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Remember that it’s okay if Valentine’s Day doesn’t go as planned.

Express Gratitude

Take a moment to express gratitude for each other’s health and well-being. Share your feelings and appreciation for your partner. Positive emotions can boost your mental and emotional health.

Create Your Own Celebration

If you don’t have someone special to share Valentine’s Day with, create your own celebration that aligns with your interests and passions. It could be a day of self-love, self-discovery, or simply doing things you enjoy. A relaxing walk in a natural setting, such as a park or beach, can calm the mind, while deep breathing can reduce the body’s fight-or-flight response. When you are relaxed, your heart does not have to work as hard, contributing to a healthier cardiovascular system.

Avoid Social Media Comparisons

Avoid comparing your Valentine’s Day experience to what you see on social media. Remember that people often share their highlights, not their disappointments. Scrolling through curated, idealised versions of others’ lives online can lead to feelings of inadequacy and envy. People often post their happiest and most attractive moments, creating an unrealistic standard for comparison.

Conclusion

This Valentine’s Day, celebrate love while also prioritising your health and well-being. By planning an active date, cooking a heart-healthy meal, and practising mindful choices, you can enjoy a hearty and healthy celebration with your loved one. Remember that the best gift you can give each other is the gift of lasting health and happiness.

Contact the Medical Society for helpful advice on which healthcare plan is best suited to you and your family and more useful advice on how to improve your heart health.

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