Thanks to Valentine’s Day, February and hearts are synonymous. People in love spend time, money, and energy buying gifts—-often sweet, chocolate, and wrapped in red cellophane—–for the ones they love.
It makes sense, then, that in 1963, Congress passed a resolution that requires the president to proclaim February as American Heart Month. But I doubt that Congress’ intent was to promote love or passion.
Cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure, is our country’s #1 killer. It was in 1963 and despite our best technology and pharmacology, it still is.
According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 80 million people in the U.S. have cardiovascular disease. That’s 1 in 3. Hall of Fame numbers if you’re Alex Rodriguez, not so good if you’re a 62 year old couch potato.
So what do you do if you’re trying to get your loved one’s attention surrounding heart disease and express your love? Like any good Valentine’s Day gift giver, feed them chocolate. But not just ANY chocolate. Dark chocolate. The kind that has lots of epicatechins.
Epicatechin is a particularly active member of a group of compounds called plant flavonoids. Flavonoids have been proven to keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries. They are also the same compounds found in red wine that give it antioxidant properties.
Believe it or not, chocolate is derived from a plant—-the Theobroma cacao plant. And it has more flavonoids than green tea, black tea, red wines and blueberries. So eating a colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables can now include dark chocolate! Think of the menu possibilities!!
While a little dark chocolate is good, a lot is not necessarily better. Don’t forget that chocolate still is loaded with calories. If you’re going to eat more chocolate, you’ll have to cut back somewhere else. And remember, there are no quick fixes! A balanced diet, plenty of exercise, not smoking, and maintaining a normal, healthy weight, are still the main ingredients to a healthy life.
In many ways we have come a long way in our country since 1963, but it is very disheartening (no pun intended) to know that 52 years later, our basic heart health has not improved. While fewer of us smoke, we have become more sedentary, more overweight, more stressed, and ultimately, less healthy. Why else, then, would cardiovascular disease still be lurking as our #1 killer?
So, in honor of Valentine’s Day and American Heart month, think about the impact that cardiovascular disease has had in your life and on the people you love. And, treat yourself and them to a nice piece of dark chocolate, preferably with at least 60% cacao in it, and forget the heart-shaped box and cellophane.