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In honor of Valentine’s Day, I have done an interdisciplinary study of the heart (a.k.a love) and red wine (a.k.a. it’s RED and it’s oh-so-romantic). Even though this is now old news, I feel it merits repeating during the days leading up to our time-honored celebration of the commodification of love. (End rant). First, a few disclaimers: Barbelle does not condone underage drinking or excessive drinking, and in no way does this post serve as the final word on the matter of alcohol and health. However, studies show that in moderation, red wine can reduce the risk of heart disease.

The flavonoids – a type of antioxidant found in red wine – may be the main cause of the health benefits of red wine. However, the American Heart Association stresses that flavonoids can be found in non-alcoholic drinks as well, such as grape juice, and the health benefits of alcohol should not outweigh the negative aspects of addiction and over-consumption. They further point out that the healthy hearts of wine drinkers may be due to exercise, diets high in fruits and vegetables, or other factors. They maintain that there has been no conclusive evidence that proves the specific properties of red wine prevent against heart disease. That said, red wine does contain elements that can improve health

Despite the AHA’s reticence, Harvard researchers have shown that resveratrol, another property in red wine, can reduce the formation of blood clots, the negative effects of a high-fat diet and the effects of aging. Of course, the AHA is quick to point out that aspirin can act as a blood thinner as well.

Although my research has not proven as clear-cut as I wanted, I can safely say that you may imbibe one glass of red wine at your Valentine’s Day dinner – if you are over 21 – without fearing for your health. Still skeptical? Go for the grape juice instead.

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With Valentine’s Day comes a barrage of candy hearts, paper hearts, and heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates and valentines. Yet, amidst this inundation of material hearts,  it is important to remember that we are always accompanied by (one might even say, indebted to) another heart.  Yes, I’m talking about the heart that’s beating in your chest right now,  circulating oxygen throughout your body.

We don’t show our hearts enough love. Sure, we love them, and may become particularly aware of them when participating in the pledge of allegiance. So let us rise to the occasion. This Valentine’s Day, there are some simple changes we can make to strengthen our hearts and make us healthier.

1.) Eat less salt: The American Heart Association stipulates that we consume less than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day.  Excessive salt intake can lead to high blood pressure. Many prepared foods, a la Hewitt and John Jay, are comprised of salt. An easy fix? Choose fresh vegetables from the salad bar instead of the cooked ones.  Also, when cooking, use cinnamon, lemon juice, garlic, or hot chilli instead of salt for flavoring for heart-healthy culinary innovations.

2.) Get moving: We hear it and read it all the time, but it’s true: our bodies really do require cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. Aim for at least thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise five days per week and you’re golden.

3.) Swap unhealthy fats with healthy fats: Lower your intake of trans and saturated fats; these fats raise our cholesterol, heightening our risk for having clogged arteries. Try to eat monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in their stead, as from nuts and olive and canola oils.

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