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Your Health – What's Love Got to Do with It?

If you tend to dismiss Valentine’s Day with an eye roll and a snarky comment about Hallmark’s need to sell more greeting cards, it may be time to rethink your position. Falling in love can actually be great for your health. Whether you’re single or attached, resolve to add a little love to your life this Valentine’s Day. Consider it an investment in your long-term health.

The Love Connection: How Love Impacts Your Physical Health

Scientists have known for decades that married people tend to live longer than single people. This is true for men and women of all ages, although the effect is particularly strong for men. There are several possible reasons for this relationship, including:

  • Better health behaviors. People who are married or in committed relationships tend to have better overall health behaviors. A spouse may encourage you to quit smoking, drink less or exercise more frequently. Furthermore, your partner may notice small changes in your health that warrant a trip to the doctor, such as a suspicious mole or lump.
  • Increased access to healthcare. Married people are more likely to have health insurance. With a higher combined income, they also tend to have more financial resources to get good quality healthcare that helps prevent disease.
  • Stronger mental health. A strong, supportive relationship is excellent for your mental health. People with stronger emotional connections to others have higher self-esteem, less anxiety and better coping skills.

Loving Feelings Change Your Brain Chemistry

Not only does love improve your health behaviors, but it may also change your brain. Feelings of love trigger your brain to release a flood of dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for pleasure or reward. Dopamine modifies structures in the brain’s limbic system, the regions that control emotion, motivation, attention and memory. This may improve mental acuity and reduce negative emotions.

Spending time with someone you love also triggers a release of the hormone oxytocin, which causes a rush of feelings of connectedness. Oxytocin is associated with lower blood pressure, improved blood flow, better mood and decreased stress. Overall, these brain changes make love a positive experience for brain and body.

Celebrate Love This Year

This Valentine’s Day, resolve to feel the love. If you are in a committed relationship, do something special with your partner that rekindles your romantic connection. This could be a romantic dinner and a box of chocolates. Alternatively, go on a hike, take a cooking class together or rewatch a movie you saw when you first fell in love.

Unattached this Valentine’s Day? Any love, not just romantic love, improves your health. Meet a friend for coffee, visit close family members, take your dog for a walk or indulge in a favorite activity to treat yourself.

Whether you’re single or married, part of loving yourself is staying in good physical health. If it is time for your annual physical, contact CareSpot for an easy, convenient healthcare experience.