This week, the world celebrated Valentine’s Day.
Chocolates and roses aside, love can do wonders for your health. In fact, experts suggest if you want to do wonders for your overall health – fall in love. Many studies are showing that love can keep you healthy mentally, physically, socially and spiritually.
Love is a powerful emotion so there should be no surprise that it goes hand in hand with wellness. In fact, your heart, hormones, fitness, youthfulness, immune system, pain levels and mood all benefit from being in love.
Love is one of the most interesting, powerful experiences a person can undergo. Because there are chemical processes in the brain that affect how we feel. When a person is in love, the body releases ‘feel good’ hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, that send out a strong signal of an almost euphoric feeling – so no more feeling depressed, stressed or in a bad mood.
And when lovers are together, the feeling is even stronger. Young love produces an even greater euphoric high, as the ‘feel good’ hormones are stronger during the very early stages of love.
So, from a medical perspective, being in love is well worth it.
Here are the healing wonders of love, according to experts
1. Studies have revealed that blood pressure normalises when loved ones are together, especially because romantic partners feel so familiar and comfortable together.
2. Some studies have suggested that the happiness that comes from being in love may be associated with lower stress-related hormones and better immune function.
3. On the other hand, people in harmful, bad relationships are at a greater risk for developing heart problems, depression and a weaker immune system.
4. It is also proven that a broken heart really does hurt, as scientists have uncovered neurological similarities between feelings of social rejection and physical pain.
5. Frequent hugging between lovers is linked to high oxytocin levels and lower blood pressure in some women, doctors at the University of North Carolina have found. And the more you hug, the better.
6. Making love not only gets your heart rate up, but it is a great way to burn calories, while enjoying the act. In one research, the statistics showed a 30-minute lovemaking session can burn up to 230 calories; 20 minutes of foreplay burns 87 calories for women and 107 for men; sex standing up can burn up to 600 calories; masturbating can burn up to 150; having an orgasm can burn off 60-100; and depending on your preferred position, you can torch up to 300 calories in one go.
7. Being in love also causes your body to pump out a neurotransmitter called adrenaline, which acts as an appetite suppressant.
8. Research has also shown that exercising with a romantic partner will more likely make you train harder and more regularly than going it alone. It is also shown that half of those people who go to the gym on their own will quit after one year, but two-thirds of those who work out with a loved one will stick it out.
9. In one study, despite high risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, men who felt loved by their wives experienced half the angina as men who felt their wives didn’t show them love.
10. A study published in the Human Communication Research also showed that writing about your affectionate feelings could also lower cholesterol levels. In the study, for a period of five weeks volunteers wrote about their feelings for loved ones in 20-minute sessions three times per day. In the end, they were found to have significantly lower cholesterol than their peers.
11. Love keeps you young. In a study at the HeartMan Institute, levels of the anti-ageing hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which produces feelings of youth and vitality, were found to be high in people in love, increased between 50 and 100 per cent in the participants. One researcher also found that just before orgasm and ejaculation, DHEA spikes to levels three to five times higher than usual.
12. It was also found that showing love and affection slowed the aging process even more than receiving love does.
13. One study found that kissing can lower cholesterol levels, decrease stress and increase relationship satisfaction. Kissing can also break down oral plaque and prevent cavities by stimulating the creation of saliva, which helps wash bacteria away from the tooth’s surface.
14. Selfless love increases immunity by decreasing stress, said a study by the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love in Ohio, United States. When under stress, the body releases the hormone cortisol, which can suppress the immune system. “A strong romantic support system protects the body from developing high levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. This helps to protect you from various diseases, including cardiovascular diseases,” says Professor Jacques Snyman, clinical advisor for Resolution Health Medical Scheme.
15. One study concluded that, over a 10-year period, men who had sex at least twice a week were half as likely to die as men who had sex less than once a month.
16. Countless studies have also found that being in a happy, loving, supportive marriage has significant health benefits. After examining mortality statistics, University of California, Los Angeles, researchers found that the death rate was ‘significantly higher’ for unmarried people than for married people living with their spouse. The effect was most dramatic in the never-married.
17. Love is a good pain reliever. According to psychiatrist Joseph Hullett, MD, “researchers studied people that experienced electrical shocks and found that holding someone’s hand ameliorated the pain and perception of pain.” Studies have shown that love activates a part of the brain responsible for pain relief; a survey of 100,000 adults found that married couples were also less vulnerable to back pain and headaches.
18. One study revealed that love activates the brain’s reward system. In people who claimed to be ‘madly in love’, it triggered intense euphoria, compelling them to take risk. No different from a drug, love was found to be highly addictive. Participants started craving the attention from their lovers, but if the love was not returned, then the craving turned to obsession.
19. University of Iowa, United States, researchers found that ovarian cancer patients with a strong sense of connection to others and satisfying relationships had more vigorous ‘natural killer’ cell activity at the site of the tumour than those who didn’t have those social ties. (These desirable white blood cells kill cancerous cells as part of the body’s immune system.)
20. It is not just romantic love that improves your health. Just the act of kindness, caring, concern, compassion and love for others can yield great health benefits. The Institute for the Advancement of Health conducted two surveys involving a total of 1,746 people who did volunteer work. Results showed that just helping out in the community offered relief from pain related to stress-sensitive conditions like multiple sclerosis, headaches and lupus. Researchers suggested effects were due to relaxation and endorphin release.