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Heart-healthy Valentine’s Day tips

Your sweetheart may have the key to your heart, but eating healthy and being physically active can be the key to a healthier heart. This Valentine’s Day, indulge your sweetheart with a heart-healthy gift or date.

Rather than going overboard with sweets, also consider a gift that has more permanence. Search for a poem that describes your feelings and write it on beautiful paper for a handmade Valentine. Or visit www.ShopHeart.org for gift ideas that benefit the American Heart Association.

Quality time is one of the most meaningful gifts. Bundle up and plan an active outing such as sledding, ice skating, gathering wood for a fire, or if you’re feeling adventurous, visit an indoor rock wall.

If your kids are having a Valentine’s Day party at their school or day care, instead of sending candies, consider raisins, grapes, whole-grain pretzels, colored pencils or stickers as tokens of their friendly affection.

Cooking at home is an excellent way to control what and how much you eat. Take a date to a local cooking class to practice your skills or learn a new technique.

Prepare a romantic candlelit dinner at home using one of our heart-healthy recipes.

Give to one another by giving back. Ask a date to volunteer with you at a local organization. Giving back is a healthy habit that can boost your mood and help beat stress.

Use this day as an opportunity to tell your loved one how important they are to you, and share ways that you can support each other’s health and wellness. Get started by taking the My Life Check Assessment.

Craving something sweet? Gift a beautiful fresh fruit basket to your loved one or consider more healthy sweets such as dark chocolate. Did you know that daily consumption of dark chocolate is linked with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke in high-risk individuals? It seems that cocoa, a primary ingredient in chocolate, contains antioxidant compounds called flavonoids. Flavonoid’s have antihypertensive and anti-inflammatory effects, which can reduce the heart’s stress and result in lower blood pressure. So indulge your inner chocoholic with a moderate piece of dark chocolate each day.

Sharing is caring – if you go out for a romantic dinner date, order one entrée to share. Many restaurant servings are enough for two – splitting will keep you from overdoing it.

Don’t forget to love Fido, too! Give your pet a Valentine and remember to walk or exercise them daily – getting active with your pet will benefit your health and your bond with your pets.

Take it slow – if you receive a luxurious box of chocolates from your sweetie, stick it in the freezer and enjoy in moderation over the next several weeks.

Take a long, romantic walk with your beloved – and try to make it a regular habit. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week to help keep your heart healthy. You can reach this goal by walking briskly for at least 30 minutes five days each week.

Check out some tips online for healthier preparation methods for cooking.

Rekindle an old flame – try preparing one of your sweetie’s favorite recipes in a healthier way. These healthy substitutions can help you cut down on saturated fats, trans fats, salt, and added sugars, while noticing little, if any, difference in taste.

Working out together can be fun. Strength training increases blood flow, builds lean muscle, and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. Choose a weight-training routine that is appropriate for your body, consulting a doctor or personal trainer if needed. If your strength is at a low ebb, even lifting a two-pound weight can be helpful. Increase the amount you lift as you gain strength.