Boxes of chocolates and sentimental cards. Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day (and the love surrounding it) may actually be good for your health.

Deborah K. Arnold, M.S.N., RN

Deborah K. Arnold, M.S.N., RN

In fact, studies show nurturing, loving relationships can improve heart health, says Deborah K. Arnold, M.S.N., RN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States for males and females. Fourteen million people currently live with CHD, and another 1.5 million will have a heart attack this year.

“There are two types of risk factors in heart disease – those that cannot be changed (age and family history) and those that can (smoking, high cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, hypertension and a person’s mood),” Arnold says.

However, behavioral changes, or those that can be changed, are only effective if they are sustained long-term. And the best way to maintain these long-term behavioral changes, notes Arnold, is by being involved in committed relationships.

“Studies continually find those involved in long-term relationships have a happier heart,” Arnold says. “Long-term, intimate relationships protect people from disease because people in relationships tend to take better care of one another.”

Couples who exercise and diet together lose more weight and sustain it. Couples who give up smoking together stay free from cigarettes longer. Couples who take an active interest in the health of their partner have better medication compliance. All of these ingredients lead to better cardiovascular health.

In celebration of the month where we recognize the power of love through Valentine’s Day, we also identify the positive health effects of relationships on heart disease. Apparently love is capable of many things – including improving your heart health.


— Holly Shive

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