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Love Is Good for the Heart, No Matter the Day

If your heart skips a beat and your feelings are more upbeat when you’re around someone you love, take heart: Love is good for your heart and nervous system. As reported by CNN Health, studies show that blood pressure not only decreases naturally when you’re interacting with a loved one, but that married people have less risk of a cardiovascular problem than single men and women.

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Those feel-good feelings that a loving relationship gives you can also help boost your mood and lower your risk for depression. On the flip side, people who are broken-hearted in love may actually end up with a physically broken heart, as heart attack risk increases after a breakup or loss of a loved one.

Believe it or not, besides being the center of your very lifeblood, your heart is also an organ of truth and emotion that is physically affected by your emotions. To that end, studies have shown that your heart and brain actually work together to produce emotions.

This interplay between your brain and heart can be seen when looking at how your emotional and mental outlook colors your health — especially your heart health. Intense anger, for example, boosts your heart attack risk fivefold, and your stroke risk threefold.

Going a step further, research also shows that people exposed to traumatic experiences, for example, combat veterans, New Orleans residents who went through Hurricane Katrina, and Greeks struggling through financial turmoil, have higher rates of cardiac problems than the general population.

Therefore, it stands to reason, if negative emotions have the potential to harm your heart, that positive emotions may heal it, and, again, studies show this indeed seems to be the case. Separate research has similarly found that:

• Positive psychological well-being is associated with a consistent reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD)

• Emotional vitality may protect against risk of CHD in men and women • Cheerful heart disease patients live longer than pessimistic heart patients

• Very optimistic people have lower risks of dying from any cause, as well as lower risks of dying from heart disease, compared to highly pessimistic people

This shows that, whether you’re involved in a love relationship or not, there are many lifestyle issues that can affect your heart, beginning with diet, exercise and stress reduction. Put simply, you could say eating well, moving more stressing less and loving more can all add up to a healthier heart.

Interestingly, studies show that what really motivates people to make sustainable changes is not fear of dying, but the joy of living — which would lead back to the necessity of having healthy relationships for a healthy heart. Meditation and mindfulness are two strategies that can help you achieve a sense of joy and peace.

In fact, meditation can even alter your genetic expression in such a way as to lower inflammation, heart beat and blood pressure while increasing levels of nitric oxide. It also relaxes your muscles, which ultimately can synergize a body-balancing harmony. The experience of the relaxation response also appears to change brain plasticity or cellular connections in areas of the brain associated with stress response.

By looking at brain scans taken during certain tests that measured emotions and brain activity to heart beat, researchers have been able to pinpoint the precise brain region affected by the heart, namely the amygdala — an area known to be associated with threat perception.

Your amygdala processes fear in combination with the signaling from your heart. This brain-heart connection is also at work when you experience feelings of compassion and empathizing with other people's emotional states.

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