Single, married, dating, or other – it doesn’t matter! It’s American Heart Month and you deserve to have a happy heart this Valentine’s Day.
Get yourself some chocolate - the GOOD stuff. The flavonoids in dark chocolate have been shown to have cardio-protective effects. Darker (70% or greater) and lesser-processed chocolate have a higher concentration of flavonoids. Not only does the type of chocolate matter, the amount does as well. The consensus seems to be to keep consumption to less than 100 g per week. Chocolate may be considered heart healthy at the right amounts but it is high in calories and can cause unwanted changes in body composition thus diminishing any benefits.
One year, my well-meaning husband purchased a chocolate of the month club for me for Valentine’s Day. One pound of assorted dark chocolates x 12! I can safely say that I went over the 100 g per week recommendations. My jeans got quite snug that year... so, while I enjoyed and appreciated the gift, I made sure to let him know I did not want a repeat the following year. These days, I keep a few 86% cacao bars in my cabinet and have a square or two most days of the week.
Make a date with movement. In place of going to the movies or dinner, plan something a bit more active: bowling, mini-golf, ice-skating, dancing, hiking, a new fitness class, even ax-throwing is an option these days. Lower intensity movement has physical and mental health benefits as well. Bonus if you do something new to challenge your body and/or coordination in different ways!
Cook at home. Going out on Valentine’s Day usually means over-crowded, loud restaurants and over-priced menus. Cooking at home allows you to create a heart -healthy meal that is good for you and delicious. Try salmon (heart-healthy omega 3s) with brown rice and veggies such as asparagus or spinach. Dark chocolate and berries for dessert!
Take time to relax. We all know that stress isn’t good for us physically or mentally. It may be tempting to reach for more wine or seconds of dessert when feeling stressed, but over time these habits can become unhealthy. Happy heart options include getting a massage, meditating, reading, finding a reason to laugh, petting a dog, even just breathing. This Valentine's Day, say "I love me", and find a few minutes for yourself.
Practice gratitude. Studies have shown that purposefully practicing gratitude can improve your health and sense of well-being. Your perspective and attitude will be more positive and this positivity will flow into other areas of your life. Many of us are naturally pessimists or realists, myself included. However, writing down points of gratitude throughout the week has helped changed my outlook; now I am better able to find the potential for positive in lousy situations.
That's it! Five easy ways to make your heart happier on Valentine's Day! I get that not everyone is a fan of February 14th. That's fine! If you think Valentine’s Day is silly/just another day, why not make it special in a way that makes your heart happy?
"In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day--or to celebrate each special day." Rasheed Ogunlaru