As you probably already know, February is American Heart Month. We're encouraged to focus on the physical side of heart wellness and the importance of healthy habits such as diet, exercise, weight management, and stress reduction.
Did you know that there's an added bonus to maintaining a healthy heart? As it turns out, what's good for your heart is also good for your brain. As Dr. Ralph Sacco, former president of the American Heart Association, has pointed out, the same risk factors that contribute to heart disease and stroke can also lead to brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, depression, silent strokes, and decreases in cognitive ability. Taking care of your heart gets you a two-for-one deal!
Of course, we cannot celebrate Heart month without also talking about love. Originally a special day for romantic love, Valentine's Day has expanded into a day dedicated to displays of love not only for that "special someone" but also for family members, school children, and friends we hold dear. It's a day on which we make a special effort to verbally express the love we have for others... love that we often feel but often don't take the time to put into words or action.
Is the expansion of "Valentine's Day" to a wider circle no more than a boon for Hallmark? Maybe, maybe not. According to researchers, positive emotions like love are also good for our hearts. Not only can demonstrations of love lower stress, they can also lower blood pressure, boost immunity, encourage self-care, and, because expressions of love often include wine and chocolate :-), increase the intake of antioxidants... all of which are great for heart health!
February truly is HEART month. Take it full circle... from lifestyle, to your heart, to your brain, and to the people you care about. I will all come back to you.