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Heart Healthy Ways to Show Your Love this Valentine's Day | February 13, 2013

February is an important month. It represents American Heart Month and also Valentine’s Day.

This year why not combine both of these by treating your sweetheart to treats that are good for your heart. Pick one of these five heart healthy Valentine’s Day ideas.

Include a little dark chocolate for your valentine. The antioxidants in dark chocolate called polyphenols protect the heart by reducing the presence of free radicals that can cause cell and DNA damage. You can make the chocolate even healthier by serving it as a dip for strawberries or other fruit.

Uncork the red wine. Like chocolate, it contains polyphenols as well as one of the antioxidants resveratrol. It also raises HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Red wines from Southwest France, Sardinia and Crete appear to have the most health benefits.

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Make a romantic meal together. Include colorful vegetables that have all types of carotenoids and flavonoids or phytochemicals that prevent various cardiovascular events. Salads are a great choice. Add walnuts or flax seeds, which are filled with Omega-3 fatty acids, which lower cholesterol and triglycerides. For the protein try grilled salmon or tuna, also high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Add whole grain pasta or brown rice.

Don’t forget to exercise. Some of the most romantic dates can involve exercise, such as cycling, skiing, tennis or golf. Regular activity strengthens your heart muscle and lowers blood pressure. It also increases the “good” cholesterol, HDLs. Just don’t overdo it, trying to show off!!

Plan some relaxation time together. Stress plays havoc on heart rate and blood pressure, which can damage coronary arteries. Spend the day at the spa, have a couple’s massage, or just spend time on the sofa watching old romantic movies.

Or combine them all together. Start in the morning by packing your romantic lunch together. Include tuna, whole grain crackers, low-fat cheese, grapes, oranges, strawberries and dark chocolate. Add one bottle of red wine (Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernets are all good choices high in resveratrol). And then you’re off to the slopes for a fun day of skiing, stopping periodically for a little nourishment and wine. End the day with a nice relaxing hot tub/bath and movie. That might just be the perfect heart healthy Valentine’s Day!