General Health Monday February 13, 2012

Looking after your heart this Valentine’s day – A singleton’s guide

Valentine’s Day can be torture when you are single. Even if you couldn’t care less about stupid red hearts and teddy bears and obligatory ‘romantic’ meals, the sight of happy couples frolicking in the February cold can be enough to make even the most content singleton cringe. However, why not rebrand Valentine's Day this year for yourself? Being single is fabulous, so instead of damaging your physical and mental health with self-deprecating thoughts, why not use this day to remind yourself to take care of you and in particular your heart. February is, after all, National Heart Month!

Broken heart syndrome

Although it’s known as ‘broken heart syndrome’ it can really be applicable to any high stress situation, however it tends to be quite common in people who’ve recently lost a loved one or who have had their heart ‘broken’ because a relationship ended. Before the condition got it’s highly apt colloquial name, it was known as "takotsubo cardiomyopathy" and it causes people to experience chest pain that can feel quite similar to a heart attack.

This happens because the body releases stress hormones that cause the heart to enlarge, making it difficult for it to pump blood as it normally would, literally causing you to experience that distinct ‘heart ache’ that has inspired so many sad break-up songs over the years.

Luckily this is only a temporary condition, but it’s an illustration of how the heart is affected by our emotional state and that prolonged periods of stress can place an incredible amount of strain on our bodies. So simply put, getting stressed out over Valentine’s Day, or allowing it to get to you, is simply just not worth it and is counterproductive.

Make a date with your heart - Heart fit = emotionally fit

Personally I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on the benefits of exercise to your emotional and mental health. All most fitness targeted advertising is ever concerned about is looks, like that’s the only reason for actually being fit. However, personally I find that focussing on the benefits of exercise to your hormonal and emotional health much more rewarding, looking good should just be considered a secondary benefit. That way you also won’t be constantly disappointed if you aren’t seeing amazing physical results straight away.

One of the most important benefits of exercise to your heart is the fact that it reduces stress, which is a contributing cause to heart disease. This is because of all the good hormones released when you exercise as well as the additional oxygenated blood being pumped around your body, making you more capable of dealing with distressing situations and even depression. It’s been proven; exercising makes you happier, even if you may not feel it straight away. Our bodies are all about balance, which means that it’s very difficult to have a have a healthy mind without having a healthy body.

Exercising also helps lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol as well as reducing high blood pressure which is a recipe for a healthy and happy heart. So why not make this Valentine’s Day the day that you start investing in your own personal happiness, by being just a little more active?

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