Valentine's Day is a day we celebrate being in love. As it turns out, there's extra cause for celebration.
Being in love is very good for you because our emotional health is strongly tied to our physical health.
Love & Marriage
A loving marriage is, without a doubt, great for your overall health. Research shows married people live an average of five years longer than those who aren't.
They also have lower rates of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and other chronic ailments than their single counterparts.
Dr. Harry Lodge, author of Younger Next Year, explains why.
"People who are socially engaged have half the mortality of people who are lonely and isolated," he said.
He said that the emotional connection between lovebirds lowers stress levels because of the emotional support and physical intimacy that comes from being in love.
"You have a much healthier, freer flow of blood to your brain," he explained. "And what that means is your brain can regulate the rest of your body far more effectively."
"And the same thing happens: all of your blood vessels relax and so blood flows exactly where it's needed in your body," he continued.
"It brings the right chemicals, the right nutrients," he said. "You can heal in all the different areas that otherwise are chewed up with stress."
For Better or Worse
Reduced stress can mean a stronger immune system. So people in love are less likely to get a cold or the flu.
Even if they do, recovery is faster. And the wedding gift list goes on. Married people:
- Have higher survival rates from life-threatening diseases.
- Are more likely to exercise, floss, drink less alcohol.
- Are more likely to get regular health screenings.
Life with your spouse can help lower blood pressure, which translates into overall better heart health.
In fact, Dr. Deepak Talreja, who practices cardiology in Virginia Beach, Va., said love can affect a person's health so much, that when someone loses a loved on, they can literally die of a broken heart.
"Normally the cause of a heart attack is an artery that's blocked with cholesterol," he explained. "But in this kind of heart attack, there are no blockages in the arteries whatsoever.
"But when we look at the functions of the heart, it's severely reduced," he continued. "And what we've usually found is there's a significant stressor that the patient has undergone, the death of a loved one, and they've had in effect a heart attack purely from stress."
Finding Real Love
So what can a single person do to improve their health?
If you're not part of a couple, it's okay. The benefits of love extend beyond romantic relationships.
In his book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Heart Disease, cardiologist Mark Houston said we can, and should, take advantage of many types of loving relationships.
"It can be love of your community, it can be love in your church, relationship with people," he said.
"But most important in my opinion, is your relationship with God," he added. "Because if you don't have that spiritual, faith, healing connection, that's the missing piece in a lot of people's healing."
Giving Love Away
So if you're feeling unloved, instead of focusing on getting love, try giving love first and see how it comes back to you.
According to Lodge, that's easier than you might think.
"There are always things you can begin doing for other people," he said. "And if you go to the yellow pages or go to your local church or civic center, and you simply begin looking for people who are worse off than you, people who need something: tutoring school kids, getting involved in after school sports programs, homeless shelters, libraries.
"There's no shortage of need for you to step up and help," he said.
Loving relationships can even be found with pets. Studies show that owning a dog or cat reduces a person's stress level. People with pets are less likely to suffer a heart attack.
The bottom line is, humans are not meant to live isolated lives. If you make the effort to get connected to other people and to build loving relationships, you'll be happier and healthier.