With a record 12.9 million of us being in a relationship in the UK, there’s going to be a colossal number of gifts exchanged on Valentine's Day this week — at least £1.6 billion’s worth according to recent data.
But whilst we know how to share our love in the form of gifts and romantic gestures, how many of us really know about each other’s hearts?
The statistics would suggest not a great deal. Coronary heart disease remains the number one killer in the UK. 73,000 of us each year die prematurely because of heart issues. Every seven minutes one of us will have a heart attack.
Let’s face it, we can gift all the chocolates, wine and calorific meals that we want, but in the UK we don’t understand what it means to maintain a healthy heart. Keeping your ticker in good shape doesn’t have to be complicated. Heart disease can be avoided by sticking to a simple healthy lifestyle.
Keep both your hearts healthy this Valentine's Day. Here are 5 ways to make sure that there’ll be plenty more loved-up Valentine’s Days to come…
1. Stick to a single glass of wine
It’s easy to forget that alcohol contains calories — lots of them in fact. If you regularly drink large quantities of beer or sugary cocktails, you’re consuming a lot of empty calories that offer next to no nutritional value. Drink too much and you could find yourself gaining dangerous weight around your midriff which could potentially cause heart problems in the future.
Moderate consumption of alcohol can, however, help to increase your HDL (good cholesterol) levels, whilst also preventing blood clots. Red wine is especially useful in this regard. But it is important to not over consume. The NHS suggests drinking less than the 14 units per week. Swap the Valentine’s Day bottle of champagne for a small glass of red.
2. Go for a romantic stroll
Undertaking regular physical activity is one of the most effective ways to avoid heart disease. You don’t need to spend 2 hours in the gym every day. A brisk 30 minute walk or cycle can help to maintain a healthy heart, and can be achieved as easily as walking or cycling to work.
For Valentine’s Day go for a romantic morning stroll in the park or cycle to your favourite venue with your partner. Enjoy each other’s company out in the open, stretch your legs, and spend some quality time keeping both your hearts healthy.
3. Leave the chocolate on the petrol station shelf
Eating your own body weight in chocolate might seem tempting on Valentine’s Day. Especially when so many of you will receive the (unimaginative) gift of chocolate from your partner. If you’re looking to maintain a healthy heart, however, you might want to reconsider your options.
The British Heart Foundation recommends cutting down on foods like chocolate that are high in saturated fat — one of the biggest causes of high cholesterol. With as many as 7 million people living with undiagnosed high blood pressure in the UK, for this Valentine's Day, don’t gift your partner high cholesterol — leave the chocolate on the shelves and together enjoy something healthy, meaningful and long-lasting.
4. Take care of your stress levels
Valentine’s Day is a day of celebration, but it can sometimes be stressful in the weeks preceding it. Finding that perfect gift (it’s not chocolate), making sure there’s a table at your favourite restaurant, arranging babysitters. Whatever it may be, Valentine’s Day is not always plain sailing. What better excuse to spend it treating you and your partner to some much-needed TLC?
Stress is a big contributor towards high blood pressure and high cholesterol — both of which put pressure on your heart. Whether home-based or work-based, stress is neither physically or mentally healthy. It doesn’t matter so much if your TLC of choice is on the day itself, or in the weeks following Valentine’s, but you should look after your heart. Book a spa or relaxing escape for you and your partner — both your hearts will appreciate it.
5. Ditch the cigarettes
Giving up smoking might be the most obvious lifestyle choice to give up when aiming to have a healthy heart. And though the number of smokers in the UK has dropped to its lowest recorded level, there are still some of you who are still addicted to cigarettes — 15.8% of UK adults to be exact.
The chemicals found in tobacco smoke directly damage your heart. They also decrease the supply of oxygen to your body which causes your blood vessels to constrict. Sound grim? It is. There’s a reason why 474,000 hospital admission in 2015/16 in the UK were directly related to smoking.
Just cutting back is not an option when it comes to smoking. But giving up can have instantaneous advantages. As soon as you stop smoking your chances of getting heart disease start to fall — dramatically so after just one year.
If you are the only smoker in your relationship, your secondary smoke will be having similar effects on your partner as it is on you too. There are few better ways to show how much you love your partner than prolonging both of your lives. Ditch the smell. Ditch the expense. Save both your hearts from disease and live longer, healthier, happier lives together.