By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science and Technology
On Valentine’s Day, feelings that come from the heart are often expressed with a box of chocolates and a glass of wine over a romantic dinner. It’s even believed those sweet treats have some heart-healthy benefits. But do they really? For years now, scientists have explored potential benefits of dark chocolate having antioxidants that may be beneficial for the heart.
“There’s some weak, weak data that antioxidants can help decrease inflammation,” said Jacob Goldstein, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.
Goldstein said that while more research would be needed, dark chocolate -or any chocolate- is at least not harmful to the heart when consumed in in moderation.
“As far as Valentine’s Day is concerned, if there’s a certain cake or chocolate or candy you like to have, go ahead and have it. It’s okay to have stuff that you like to eat,” he said.
Just like chocolate, wine is associated with Valentine’s Day. Red wine has substances including resveratrol and antioxidants. Some scientists say those substances may be good for the blood vessels and the heart, lowering the risk of heart disease. But cardiologists say more research is needed.
“There is some weak data that red wine has some beneficial effects on the heart as compared to other types of alcohol,” Goldstein explained. “So, if you’re going to choose to have one or the other, I usually say a glass of red wine is absolutely okay at night. One to two glasses of wine a night for a man is okay. Usually about one glass of wine a night for a woman.”
Wine and chocolate are not the only way to your loved one’s heart! Couples can take care of each other’s hearts on Valentine’s Day by choosing heart health as something to work on together. After all, February is American Heart Month.
“Things you can do as couples around Valentine’s Day – going for a jog together, long walk together, going to work out together, pickle ball has become very popular,” Goldstein suggested. “Anything where you can both get the heart rate up for a good 30 minutes or more is going to be beneficial to the heart.”
Couples can also choose a heart-healthy diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as lean proteins that are lower in cholesterol and fat. Goldstein suggested to eat healthier most of the week.
“Kind of a boring Tuesday night should be more chicken, vegetables, salads, green things,” he said. “But you can still have things that you like to eat. You can still have a steak once in a while, you can still have a burger and fries once in a while.”
Dr. Goldstein pointed out another important way to care for hearts of loved ones on Valentine’s Day and during American Heart Month – by talking with loved ones about screening for heart disease.
“If you don’t have a primary care doctor and you haven’t seen a cardiologist in a long time, get back in to get screened for blood pressure, screened for cholesterol, screened for diabetes. Talk about smoking cessation, talking about diet, exercise and weight loss. This is always the opportune time to do it.”