Can we talk health today? Have you ever head the song, “all you need is love” recorded by the beatles? They might have been trying to tell us something we did not seem to get. Many will consider love alongside the box of chocolates and the vale of roses and the romantic nights that turn to drift the mind into an absolute delight implanting unforgettable memories in it’s wake. But… is that all there is to love? Research have documented the wealth of benefits accrued from being in love and health implications for people who celebrate being with someone.
- [ ] What does Love have to offer to the heart? In every part of the world, love is associated with the heart and thus it’s no surprise the symbol of love is one of the, if not the most important human organ. It therefore is not far fetched why we intend starting with benefits of love to the heart. Research has proved that being in a relationship and a satisfying one for that matter can lead to improved survival rates after coronary bypass surgery. This is an aggressive treatment for heart disease which easily lead to loss of life. Being satisfied in a relationship also increases the chances surviving from obesity and tobacco use but this has to do more with healthy relationship leading encouraging healthy behavior such as quitting smoking and keeping fit.
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A study found that merely holding each other’s hands for 10 minutes followed by a 20-second hug had healthier reactions in the axial regions of your body than couples who will just rest. (Medical news today). And also couples who had brief warm social contact exhibited lower blood pressure, lower heart rates and smaller increases in heart rates which saves you from a potential blood pressure. The researchers stated that, this maybe as result of lower reactivity to stressful life events as a result of being in an affectionate relationship with a supportive partner.
Hypertension can be dangerous, leading to serious conditions including heart failure, stroke and heart attack. Research has also found that it can increase the risk of cognitive decline later in life. However, lowering blood pressure is not the only aspect of being in a relationship that benefits cognitive functioning.
Sex is a form of exercise and like any other exercise, it increases the heart rate, however, with sex, the heart rate reaches an average peak at orgasm which other forms of exercise don’t have. It’s comparable to forms of light exercises. It’s fine for people with heart disease to have have sex as long they can perform equivalent activities without any chest pain.
- [ ] How does love and being in love affect mental health?
Sex has also been found by researchers to improve mental health. A small study of 46 men and women suggested that like other forms of physical activity, sex reduces levels of stress.
Researchers conducted stress tests involving acts such as doing mental arithmetic out loud, finding that people who had sex coped better with stress than participants that had no sex at all.
A person’s sense of well-being can also be improved by sex. A much larger study of 3,000 people aged 57-85 demonstrated that those who were having sex rated their health much more favorably than those who were not.
In this study, it was not just sex that led to improved well-being, but being in a satisfying relationship overall. The researchers found that participants in close relationships were more likely to report they were in “excellent” or “very good” health, rather than merely “good” or “poor.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, thinking positively in this manner could lead to further health benefits, including reductions in the risk of the following:
- Common cold
- Overall mortality.
Dr. Larry J. Young, of Emory University in Atlanta, GA, told Medical News Today that the benefits to health and well-being that come from being in a relationship are best understood from seeing what happens when a relationship is lost, either by death or splitting up:
“Loss of a loved one (e.g. spouse or romantic partner) leads to an increase in mortality, immune suppression, cardiovascular disease and depression.”
- [ ] What does this mean to single people…?
Single people can feel quite downhearted around Valentine’s Day, being surrounded by people experiencing a joy that, at that moment in time, eludes them. Reading about these examples of health benefits for happy and affectionate couples may well contribute toward to this.
It is not all doom and gloom for single people, however. Research has found that having a good network of friends can have many of the same positive effects as being in a relationship.
One study of 1,500 people aged over 70 found that participants who reported having strong friendship groups tended to live longer than people with fewer friends. The authors suggested that this finding could be due to friends having a positive influence on lifestyle choices.
Despite all the health benefits that sex provides, research has also demonstrated that a life of celibacy can also be one that is long and healthy. A longitudinal study of 678 nuns aged 75-107 found many participants maintaining an active lifestyle and demonstrating strong cognitive function well into old age.
So, while there is much to celebrate about being in a relationship around Valentine’s Day, it is by no means the be-all-end-all, especially when looking from a health perspective. Good health and long life can be enjoyed by anyone, no matter what their relationship status is.
Written by: Ezekiel Allotey(Eze)
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