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Loving Your Heart

An Innovative Apporach to Valentine's Day

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietician

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.
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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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