MetroHealth's Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day Gift Guide
Still searching for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift? Check out these five ways to show your partner you care.
- Dark Chocolate
- Red Wine
- Make a Meal
- Exercise Together
- Relax Together
Dark chocolate contains special antioxidants called polyphenols that protect the heart by reducing the presence of free radicals that cause cell and DNA damage. The Harvard School of Public Health studied almost 8,000 American men around the age of 65 for five years and found that those who ate chocolate up to three times a month live almost a year longer that those who ate too much or none at all.
Uncork and enjoy (in moderation, of course). Like chocolate, polyphenols are the key to the health benefits of red wine. Chemicals such as tannins and flavonoids in grape skin and seeds are powerful antioxidants. Also important are the procyanidins, which help to reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
Red wine also raises the HDL or "good" cholesterol. Another ingredient in red wine, resveratrol, slows aging of the heart, bones, eyes and muscles.
Not sure which wine to choose? Certain traditional red wines from southwest France, Sardinia, and Crete appear to have the most health benefits according to researchers.
Make a Healthy Meal
Plan a romantic evening at home that begins with a delicious, heart-friendly meal.
Start with a colorful salad. Brightly-colored vegetables have many types of carotenoids (a substance similar to vitamin A) and flavonoids, or phytochemicals, that prevent various cardiovascular events. Serve on top of dark leafy greens, and substitute crunchy walnuts or flax seeds for croutons. Use lemon juice as an alternative to rich salad dressing.
Choose the right entrée. For your main course, grill or broil salmon, which is high in Omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 not only lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, but it’s is also good for Crohn's disease, asthma, arthritis, cramps, adult diabetes, and MS, and improves brain function.
On the side. Serve steamed Brussels sprouts or broccoli tossed with garlic, which has been shown to help lower blood pressure. Reasonable portions of whole grain breads and pasta contain many beneficial components like fiber, minerals, and vitamins that are removed from their white-flour counterparts during refining. Brown rice also makes for a high-fiber side dish.
Dive into dessert. Enjoy some dark chocolate (see above) along with an array of peanuts and tree nuts. Nuts have been proven to lower the risk of heart disease. The effects are evident in all ages, in males and females, and even among individuals with various conditions, such as diabetes. In fact, women who reported eating one serving of nuts a day were 30% less likely to develop coronary artery disease, according to study in the August issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. In fact, eating about a handful of peanuts five or more times per week will cut your risk of heart disease in half!
Another Option: Serve up a heart-healthy breakfast. Try a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal. This fiber-rich superfood is full of Omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. It can lower levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol and help keep arteries clear. Other breakfast dishes include high protein egg white and spinach omelets or plain yogurt topped with nuts or seeds.
The Couple that Exercises Together…
…stays healthy together. Many gyms offer couple’s memberships—a great gift for any occasion. However, there are many free ways to stay active with your partner. Set regular “walking dates,” take up a double’s sport, such as tennis or racquetball, or plan long, weekly bicycle rides.
Regular activity strengthens your heart muscle; lowers blood pressure; increases "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins or HDLs) and lowers "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins or LDLs); enhances blood flow; and helps your heart function more efficiently. All of these benefits reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Nervous about starting an exercise plan? Don’t be. Researchers at Duke University suggest that the amount of physical activity, rather than its intensity, has the biggest impact on improving cholesterol. However, be sure to consult a physician prior to starting any diet or exercise regimen.
Make Time for R&R
Stress and heart disease go hand in hand, as it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure and cause damage to the lining of the coronary arteries. With stress coming at you and your partner from all directions—work, family, bills—it’s important to make time to relax.
For Valentine’s Day, schedule a couple’s massage or spa day, watch some of your favorite movies together, or simply block out time to do nothing but enjoy each other’s company.