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Health, Stuff, The Mind

Romance is more than a feeling – it’s a matter of health

Love is beautifulDim the lights, uncork the wine and light the candles – Valentine’s Day is here! For all you love fools out there, the flowers will have been ordered days ago while your surprise Eurostar ticket to Paris is already safely tucked under your pillow. The strange intoxicating power of love can change our perspective on life and can make us do many strange things – like buying roses at £5 a stem or even saying you’ll never look at another man or woman again. But as you gaze, heart-a-flutter, into the eyes of your beloved this weekend, remember that love is more than a feeling – it’s a matter of health.

E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, certainly wouldn’t have put it this way, but the amorous torrents of love emotion we feel are the result of chemicals. Oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine, endorphin and serotonin all surge through our blood and brain, each contributing to the indescribable thing they call love. This hormonal cocktail not only changes how we act and feel but also changes how well our body copes with stress. The hormones released when in love can relax blood vessels, lowering blood pressure; they can lower cholesterol, helping to keeping arteries clear and free flowing; and some may even have some cancer-fighting powers. And for a chocolate box full of reasons, married people can be expected to enjoy up to 15 years more life than single people. Furthermore, regular times of romantic intimacy boosts the immune system, further reducing the risk of infection and disease – all the more reason to keep the romance alive!

These are some pretty incredible statistics, but for all of cupid’s virtues it shouldn’t be a reason to jump on the first person who flutters their eyelashes or flexes their biceps. Neither is it reason to wallow on Valentine’s: many academics have concluded very many of us pick ‘The One’ far too early. And being in an unhappy relationship is far more harmful than being alone: men or women who are made to feel the ‘lesser party’ in a relationship ultimately have poorer health. Statistically speaking, we should date a few people before we settle down (approximately ten times before even thiking about a life partner, according to some calculations). For single people, having strong friendships and social networks can offer the health and psychological protection on a par with marriage. And should you be in any doubt then look to the monasteries and convents – Sister Madonna Buder, for example, is 83 years old and is still doing triathlons (and winning)!

But for those of us who are in a relationship, Valentine’s Day could be good time to enjoy the life-giving power of special time with a nearest and dearest. Not that many of us will be considering medical statistics when we have butterflies in our tummy – rarely does dry logic take precedent over passion. Unless, men, you forget to buy your better half a card, that is. Do that, and you will certainly know that how her logic will overrule any passion you may have…

Thanks for reading – all opinions expressed are my own. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

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