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5 Ways Being Happy is Good for Your Heart – Literally

February 4, 2013

February is American Heart Month and, with the most romantic holiday (Valentine’s Day!) just around the corner, it is a good time to reflect upon the happiness and health of our heart. Many people might think that having a healthy heart is simply about eating right and getting regular exercise, but you might be surprised to know that many of the things that you do for love – your figurative “heart” – are also great for cardiovascular health.

At Integrative Nutrition, we call these things primary foods – the relationships, physical activity, fulfilling career, and spiritual practice that are just as important to your health as the food on your plate. Here is a list of our favorite primary foods that promote a healthy, and happy, heart!

Laughter really is the best medicine when it comes to heart health, fighting stress hormones that increase the number of artery-blocking platelets and raise blood pressure. Not only does a good laugh reduce the levels of these hormones, but it doubles as an excellent ab workout (also good for the heart!) A funny video, photo, or conversation with a friend is a great way to fit laughter into your day.  

Love is the spice of life – and a crucial primary food for a healthy heart. Research shows that happily married couples are less likely to get heart disease, and are more likely to live healthier and longer lives. But romantic love is not the only preventative measure for a healthy heart. The love of family, community, and even your pet all promote heart health and happiness.

Meditation is an invaluable practice that supports a healthy heart and increases happiness. It helps to relieve high blood pressure, inflammation, and most chronic disease, while at the same time tuning you into your emotional and physical needs. One study shows that meditation has similar benefits to sex, including a decreased sense of pain. One way to start meditating is by visualizing what you want in your life before you go to sleep.

Friends can help one another achieve health goals, provide support in tough times, and they can even help the other in recovering from disease. One study showed that women diagnosed with cancer were four times more likely to survive if they had 10 or more close friends.  By cultivating strong friendships in your life, your stress will be reduced and joy doubled. Communication and making plans are great ways to build and strengthen both friendships and heart health in your life.

Self-care is an important primary food, especially if you tend to focus all your energy on others rather than yourself. Taking time for yourself can actually increase your optimism and help you lose weight, which all support a healthy and happy heart. Try a home spa treatment or a self-massage to decrease stress and show yourself a little self-love.  

Which primary foods feed your heart?