Loving Your Heart

Evidence suggests that on February 14, 269 A.D., Valentine was martyred for secretly marrying countless couples and bringing together true love. Legend has it that the emperor of the time, Claudius II, believed that marriage weakened his army and therefore banned the practice. However, Valentine defied the emperor, was caught, condemned and beaten to death.

Over 225 years later, Pope Gelasius set aside February 14th to honor St. Valentine, who became the patron saint of lovers. Gradually, the 14th of February became a day for exchanging love messages and simple gifts. This Valentine’s Day, why not give your heart a simple gift? The gift of health.

Start with these five heart-smart Valentines.

Valentine #1: No Smoking, Please
What is the single most important thing you can do to improve your heart health? Stop smoking. Smoking hardens the arteries, compromises the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the cells, raises blood pressure, and causes an irregular heartbeat. Kicking the habit is hard. Check with your physician about the nicotine patch as well as smoking cessations programs in your area.

Valentine #2: Don’t Fear Fat
The important thing to remember about fat intake is that you want to reduce it, not eliminate it. Cut back on saturated fat found in lard, butter, stick margarines, high fat dairy products, high fat meats, fried foods, cream sauces, and gravies. Instead of fearing all fats, let some good fat into your diet. Enjoy cooking, baking, and sautéing with olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil. These oils are rich in monounsaturated fats, which help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Valentine #3: Move It, Don’t Lose It
The best news regarding exercise is that you don’t have to knock yourself out to give your heart a healthy workout. Modest amounts of exercise can substantially reduce your risk of heart disease. Take a brisk walk, work in your garden, wash the car, or take the stairs. Get those large muscle groups working, and your heart will get a workout too.

Valentine #4: Slow Down and Smell the Roses
In our fast-paced society it is hard not to find someone who isn’t stressed! But stressing out stresses your heart too. Don’t try to eliminate all stress. Some stress, called eustress, is good for us—exercise, planning a wedding, studying for an exam. These stressors help us improve ourselves. Learn cope with other stressors in a healthy way. Need some guidance? Your physician can refer you to professionals or stress reduction and relaxation classes in your area.

Valentine #5: A Little Help from Your Friends
You don’t have to go through healthy lifestyle changes alone. It’s easier to do anything with the help and support of your family, friends, and of course, the SparkPeople Community. We are here to help answer your questions, provide support, motivation and encouragement. Let us be your Valentine!

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Member Comments

There are many things in life we can do or not do to make things go so much smoother. Report
Good article. Report
I thought stress is bad. Now I learnt is not that bad, hmm!. I did my GCSE Math last year, less sleep and that stress was so bad. I don't wish to have it again in my life.
There are so many things we can do instead of resorting to popping pills to better our health and strength. Report
the heart is truly the only organ that takes good and bad and continues to carry on,although a broken heart will take along time to heal if ever Report
It seems to me that saturated fat is not the villain it was made out to be -my Dad ate Becel and had 3 heart attacks. I would rather eat butter than something that's 2 steps away from PLASTIC. Report
Stress??? What's that???lol
The best way to protect your heart is to lower your internal inflammation levels.

The best way to do that is to lower your sugar and starch intake. They're empty calories for nutritional purposes, but a loaded gun for your heart health. Report
Another great article! Report
Love the article. It's great when you can read something to help you to make better choices. Report
I do wish my husband would quit smoking

I can not convince his how much it would mean to me Report
My triglycerides went from 330 in April to 82, and I lost 34 pounds in that time. There's a lot we can do for our tickers! Report
Another great read for the health of the body is: "YOU: On A Diet" by Dr. Oz. I have both the South Beach Diet book, per Jibbie, and YOU: On A Diet.

These books together are a powerhouse of information. YOU: On A Diet explains in layman's terms and with cartoon sketches, (as only Dr. Oz can do), how the body works and what happens when you care for it, and when you don't care for it. It has a storehouse of knowledge, information, and tips to help you understand why your body functions the way it does.

The South Beach Diet is geared to help one with getting their numbers, (blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol, ect.), going in the right direction.

Both books will do your heart wonders, and your body will thank you for it. Report
I think everyone should read ARTHUR AGATSTON, M.D.'s book "The South Beach Heart Health Program." as he is a Cardiologist and Professor at the U. of Miami Medical School. I've learned so much about Metabolic Syndrome/pre-diab
etes from reading his books. Report
Great article. I love Valentine's Day. True it gets a lot of flack for being so commercialized; still, any day that brings hearts and love to the surface (even superficially) is okay by me. Report


About The Author

Becky Hand
Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.
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