Forget the medicine cabinet— romantic relationships can be a ticket to good health . (Thanks, sweetie.) But is Cupid’s bow a double-edged sword? We took a closer look at love— from long-term relationships to casual encounters, marriage to heartbreak— to see how it really affects our health.
Heart Healthy — The Need-to-Know
Love isn’t all about the butterflies. There are chemical processes in the brain that affect how we feel . When we’re with a significant other, the body releases hormones, like oxytocin and dopamine, that signal feelings of trust, pleasure, and reward.
And all that happens in the brain may be good for the heart— literally. In one study, researchers found people’s blood pressure was lower when they were with a romantic partner than when they were interacting with anyone else. (Guess they weren’t fighting…) . Scientists suggest blood pressure’s lower in these situations because romantic partners feel familiar and comfortable with each other. Yet, even new relationships have their advantages— researchers discovered fresh love may shield against stress . Oh, the joys of the “honeymoon” stage.
Love Lockdown — Your Action Plan
In most cases, love and wellness go hand-in-hand. But beware: People in unsupportive and harmful relationships are at greater risk for developing heart problems, depression, and a weaker immune system . And with any relationship comes the risk of heartbreak, which really does hurt, as scientists uncovered neurological similarities between feelings of social rejection and physical pain.
And it may not be a good idea to get hitched too soon. When researchers looked at marriage among couples up to 26 years old, they found a link between tying the knot and a higher BMI . And, sorry gents, early marriage was also associated with an increased rate of depression in African American men and smoking in white men. Maybe their spouses were Housewives?
So here are some tips to take advantage of the potential health benefits of Cupid’s arrow, giving us another reason to thank a loved one this Valentine’s Day (and every day that follows!):
- Write a love letter. Forget texting— one study found writing love letters can reduce cholesterol. Signed, sealed, delivered— it benefits both parties!
- Grab a hand. Holding hands with a significant other can reduce stress more than holding a stranger’s (which would be weird anyway) . Looks like the Beatles were onto something.
- Hug it out. Don’t forget the power of a good hug. Frequent hugging between lovers is linked to high oxytocin levels (the love hormone!) and lower blood pressure in some women .
- Get down n’ dirty. It’s no secret sex can reduce stress, so remember to fit in some quality time between the sheets to feel good in more ways than one .
- Hit the gym (together). Studies suggest married pairs frequent the gym more often and are less likely to call it quits than when they go alone . So become a power couple and sweat it out together, boosting some endorphins along the way .
How does your relationship benefit your health? Tell us in the comments below!