If it's Valentine's Day, it sure is 'bout the heart! Not just the heart that flutters, but also the one that's beats faster every time the love of your life walks past! With sweet indulgences coming your way this February, a University of Michigan researcher says that you can still keep that little heart beating strongly because extravagances like chocolate, wine and romance are good for your internal cupid (albeit, in moderation).
Dr. Steven F. Bolling, professor of cardiac surgery at the U-M medical school, says that tart cherries, grapes and wine have components that can lower blood pressure and protect heart muscle.
A glass of wine and massage can do wonders for lowering stress and anxiety, the researcher adds.
"There are many fruits associated with Valentine's Day, most commonly cherries, of course. In cherries there are compounds called anthocyanins, which also can be very good for your heart. Perhaps we could even take the cherries and dip them in chocolate to make a very good, heart-healthy Valentine's snack," says Bolling.
However, not any chocolate, but dark chocolate is the kind that contains flavonoids, that can guarantee a healthy heart.
"People have asked the question which is better for you red wine or white wine? Probably wine in itself is good for you, just because it reduces stress and anxiety; let's not over do it. But red wine has specific agents, perhaps in the dark skin of red wine grapes that are heart-healthy and heart friendly," warned Bolling.
In a recent study it was shown that grapes intake lowered blood pressure and improved heart function in lab rats.
It is believed that the beneficial effect of the grapes is from their high level of phytochemicals - naturally occurring antioxidants - that grapes contain.
Also, similar advantages have been found to be associated with tart cherries.
"A 'tart, heart-smart diet' has shown to be very beneficial in terms of heart health, heart function and also really reducing belly fat and changing your metabolic obesity syndrome, all very helpful," said Bolling.
Animals that received powdered tart cherries in their diet had lower total cholesterol, lower blood sugar, less fat storage in the liver, lower oxidative stress, and increased production of a molecule that helps the body handle fat and sugar.
Cherries were found to alter factors that can lead to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Other activities associated with Valentine's Day that are heart-healthy include massage. Reducing stress and anxiety has long been linked with benefiting the heart.
"There is proven research that indicates that massage itself is beneficial in the post-operative state, in hospitalized patients to reduce stress and anxiety and even probably to reduce blood pressure," said Bolling.
He added: "All of these indulgences really do not have to be limited to Valentine's Day itself and certainly will lead to a much better heart-health status if we practice them everyday."