Heart Health 021021

Doesn’t everyone look forward to celebrating Heart Health month and Valentine’s Day in February? I know I do. I enjoy lavishing my wife with dark chocolates, flowers, love, and affection. As a parent, I enjoy hearing about how our children do the same for their spouses and significant others.

Each February, I devote my attention to sharing my thoughts about taking care of the essential organ associated with Valentine’s Day and love: the heart.

The Power of 5 Ultimate Formula and Your Heart

Much of The Power of 5 The Ultimate Formula is devoted to maintaining a healthy heart, as it is an important component of our quality of life and longevity. A healthy heart is vital to survival. Our hearts require nourishment from all five elements of the Power of 5 Formula, especially the fifth S, Sex/Socialization, which represents love, affection and companionship.

A loving heart, a heart full of love, is the precious essence of human life.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Love and God

Each of the five elements of the Power of 5 is directed toward improving and maintaining good health and increasing our chances at longevity. However, no part of the body is more important to our survival than a healthy heart. Our hearts pump blood throughout our bodies, supplying vital nutrients and oxygen to support life. Without a functioning heart, survival is impossible.

When we love someone deep in our heart there are significant health benefits. Companionship can lead to intimacy, which provides us with both hormonal and pleasurable benefits.

What Do Hormones Have to Do With Heart Health?

There are three important hormones and neurotransmitters which circulate in our bodies. These are enhanced when we are in loving relationships. They include oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. The latter two are often referred to as our “happy hormones.” Serotonin plays a role in happiness and contentment, while dopamine plays a role in pleasure. Oxytocin seems to have the more important role in regards to intimacy. Inna Schneiderman mentions this in an article called “Oxytocin during the initial stages of romantic attachment: Relations to couples’ interactive reciprocity” published in the August 2012 issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology.1

The article says:

“Oxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone. It is produced by the hypothalamus and secreted by the nearby pituitary gland. Oxytocin plays a major role in couples falling in love as measured by  significantly high levels in our bodies.”

Additionally, another study 2 on the hormone says, “Oxytocin also plays a role in social bonding, maternal instinct and reproduction, and sexual pleasure. The ‘love hormone’ substantially increases social attachment and trust among partners.” The authors also stated, “Oxytocin is tied to more than just new romance.”

The benefits are summarized to include:

  • trust
  • gazing
  • empathy
  • positive relationship memories
  • fidelity
  • positive communication, and
  • processing of bonding cues

When we share affection, we release oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, which can offset the effects of dangerous stress hormones such as cortisol.

Well-established research has revealed couple-ship is associated with longer life expectancies. There are several scientific theories as to why this is the case.

When we are in such relationships, we have partners who love us and care for our well-being. This can be life-saving. In a loving relationship, partners are more likely to encourage healthy lifestyles and visits to health professionals which, in turn, may result in greater health.

Where Do the Other Four Elements of the Power of 5 Fit Into Heart Health?

As a reminder, stress has detrimental effects on our heart. With the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and other neurotransmitters like adrenaline, our hearts, blood pressure, and blood vessels are negatively affected.

Lack of satisfactory quality and quantity of sleep can also increase cardiovascular risk. Increased blood pressure, which may result from a lack of quality sleep, has been determined to be a major cause of non-valvular atrial fibrillation. When undetected and untreated, atrial fibrillation increases stroke risk.

In addition, disrupted sleep has negative effects on our central nervous systems. The risk for depression and dementia increase as a result. Poor quality and limited sleep duration can hinder us from having the desired loving relationships we seek.

Sweat, or increased physical activity, is a fantastic way to strengthen the heart muscle and maintain strength and a positive attitude. These benefits of exercise enable us to enjoy the moments of intimacy and companionship we desire to have with our loved one.

Finally, sweets also affect heart health. I do not often advocate for desserts or high-sugar snacks as they trigger a cascade of negative effects starting with insulin release which triggers hunger. American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day call for healthy options to fill the bill.

There are tremendous health benefits to dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains chemical byproducts that reduce inflammation and promote a healthy gut microbiome. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests the bacteria in our intestines, a.k.a. our microbiomes, play a major role in many different functions in our body. Scientists have discovered that the microbiome exerts some control over our immune function, systemic inflammation, and other mechanisms of our central nervous systems. This helps us fight off viruses, and also may contribute to improving depression and dementia.

Your Turn: Give the Power of 5 a Try

In this month of focused heart health, I encourage you to incorporate as much of the Power of 5 into your life as possible! Follow along to enhance the strength and fitness of your heart and promote healthy relationships.

Enjoy what you eat, especially dark chocolate.

To a Long and Healthy Life,

David Bernstein MD

P.S. Remember to follow Melissa in the Power of 5 Test Kitchen and join in the happenings!
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1 Inna Schneiderman, et al., Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Aug; 37(8): 1277–1285. Oxytocin during the initial stages of romantic attachment: Relations to couples’ interactive reciprocity.

2 Michael Kosfeld, et al., Nature; Published: 02 June 2005. Oxytocin increases trust in humans.

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