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Hungry Heart? 4 healthy Valentine indulgences

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Valentine’s Day, and the romance that goes with it, are good for your heart and probably shouldn’t be confined to one day a year.

Things like chocolate, wine, sex and a healthy relationship have all been linked to improved cardiac health, experts at the Cleveland Clinic say.

Dark chocolate, containing at least 70 percent cocoa, contains flavenol antioxidants, which lower blood pressure and prevent clotting, Dr. A Marc Gillinov, staff cardiac surgeon in the Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Department, said.

Alcohol in wine increases HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol in our bloodstreams, Gillinov said.

“You can get that from either white wine or red wine, though red wine gets the nod,” Gillinov said.

An ounce, or a square, of dark chocolate per day is enough to reap the benefits of the cocoa, but more increases our intake of saturated fat and calories which can, in turn, lead to increased triglyucerides and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, Julie Zumpano, registered dietician in preventive cardiology, said.

Zumpano recommends a drink or a glass of wine per day for women and two for men.

A drink is defined 1 to 1-1/2 ounces of spirits or 4-5 ounces of wine.

A romantic dinner can also be an opportunity to fall off our diet wagon, which is just fine, as long as we keep it under control. Zumpano recommends indulging in one, favorite food.

“It’s a lot less damage that way and you still feel like you can enjoy something during the holiday,” she said.

And what about…euphemistically…“intimacy?” Gillinov minces no words: it’s good for you.

“Men who have sex two or three times a week are more likely to live longer and actually less likely to die of a heart attack than men who have sex once a month or less,” he said.

He says there is no research, but he presumes the benefits are roughly the same for women.

Passion aside, researchers in Finland say being married decreases the risk of a heart attack.

Their findings, published in “Doctors Health Press,” looked at 15,000 heart attacks over a 10-year period and found that cardiac events were 58 to 66 percent higher in unmarried men, and 60 to 65 percent higher in unmarried women.

So, this Valentine’s Day, eat, drink and, above all, be merry.

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