While flowers and chocolates may be the most traditional Valentine’s Day gifts, experts say that giving the gift of heart health can not only brighten your loved one’s day, but keep that spark alive all year long for both of you.
Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women, killing more than 610,000 people every year. In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 42 seconds and, every minute, an American dies from a heart-related event.
“That’s why it is so important to give a love inspired gift on Valentine’s Day,” Dr. Kevin Campbell, a leading cardiologist and assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, tells Newsmax Health.
“Since February is American Heart Month, Valentine’s Day is a great time to start taking steps to be heart-healthy with your partner. Make a date with your heart!”
Here are six ways to give the gift of heart health:
Make exercise sexy. Exercise is one of the most important things we can do to improve our overall health. One in three Americans are obese and obesity leads to diabetes, high blood pressure and ultimately puts us at risk for heart disease and stroke, says Campbell.
“Invest in a gym membership and make exercising fun,” he says. “Set goals as a couple such as working out three times together each week or shoot for 150 minutes total time each week. Take before and after photos and support each other!”
Reconnect with less screen time. We spend far too much time connected to electronic devices and far too little time connected with our loved ones. Too much screen time is associated with less quality sleep and sleep deprivation can put you at risk for heart disease. Spend quality time together without cell phones or tablets.
Have a heart-to-heart conversation and set aside a time each and every day to make this happen.
Take a cooking class. Cooking classes are great ways to spend romantic evenings, says Campbell. Along with exercise, diet plays a huge role in how we look and feel. Taking a cooking class to learn healthier ways to prepare favorite foods is a wonderful way to bond as a couple and learn new skills that you can share at home.
Give up tobacco for a cleaner kisser. Smoking remains the number one preventable cause of death in the United States today. Smoking puts you at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, vascular disease and lung cancer — not to mention it makes your breath and clothes smell terrible.
Campbell suggests that you enlist your partner’s support if you smoke and if you both smoke, make Valentine’s Day a date to quit the habit together.
Take dancing lessons. Dancing is a great aerobic activity and a sure fire way to rekindle the romance in your love life. After a dinner out, head to the nearest dance club or studio to have loads of fun and burn off the evening’s calories and reducing stress.
Dancing can be very sensual — think Tango —and may put you in the mood for romance. Consider giving a series of dancing lessons to your partner so you can both reap the rewards of this popular activity.
Bust stress together. Stress is directly associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Stress also increases your blood pressure and heart rate. Taking a series of yoga or mindfulness meditation classes can teach you stress-busting skills.
“Stress activates the brain to tell the body to release hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol which can put extra strain on the heart,” notes Campbell.
“Learn to be mindful of the small things that make you smile — together. Celebrate Valentine’s Day with appreciation for the love you two share in your heart and make a commitment to keep both those hearts healthy.”
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