On the other hand, feelings of love, gratitude, and appreciation help to slow heart rate, normalize heart rhythms, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation. Emotional closeness and affectionate physical contact also help keep your heart healthy. Holding hands, hugs, massage, and sexual intimacy cause the pituitary gland to release oxytocin, which has been called the "pair bonding hormone." Oxytocin is most well-known for stimulating contractions of the uterus during childbirth and the release of milk during breastfeeding. It promotes bonding between mothers and their infants. In both women and men, oxytocin not only facilitates bonding, it also has powerful cardioprotective effects. It decreases the level of stress hormones, primarily cortisol, and lowers blood pressure in response to distressing events. In addition to helping prevent heart disease, it actually helps heal damage to the heart and blood vessels by reducing cell death and inflammation.
Here are some ways to keep your heart healthy with the power of love:
• Make love a priority. Take time to appreciate the people you care about, and express your love often. Both you and the ones you love will benefit.
• Cultivate a loving, compassionate attitude toward yourself. If you tend to be hard on yourself, remember that everyone is fallible, including you.
• Treat yourself with loving kindness. Too often we neglect our own needs in the service of doing our job or caring for others. You can care for yourself with love by giving your body the healthy food, exercise, sunshine, and sleep it needs.
• If you tend to be quick to anger or you hold on to anger, use breathing exercises to reduce your emotional reactivity. Try to look at things from a more empathic and compassionate perspective.
• Reach out. Hug your friends and family, cuddle with your beloved, and stroke your dog or cat. Giving or receiving a massage is another wonderful way to experience the physical touch we need to keep our hearts and souls healthy.