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Celebrating love, in moderation

Published 8:53pm Thursday, February 13, 2014

Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday for which we are nationally sanctioned to convey our love for, well, our loved ones. Take your date to a nice restaurant, take them up on the standard offering of chocolate, take those flowers and put them in water.

While our Valentine’s Day actions are somewhat predictable, here are some Valentine’s Day facts that perhaps aren’t quite so well known.

Russell Stover was a real person and he invented the Eskimo Pie. In the 1920s, his wife Clara made, and individually wrapped, candy in their home kitchen, which was marketed as Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies. But it was Cadbury that made the first candy-filled, heart-shaped box in 1822.

Americans spend nearly $800 million on chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Roughly 200 million roses are sold around Feb. 14. Between chocolate, flowers and other gifts, Americans spend about $18 billion dollars a year to prove their love.

Love hurts, literally. Doctors at Johns Hopkins University announced there is a rare but lethal heart condition caused by emotional distress, known as “stress cardiomyopathy.” Commonly, it’s known as “broken heart syndrome,” and is what’s often at play when elderly spouses die within days, hours, minutes of one another. Apparently Tylenol can help ease the ache of a broken heart: psychologists at the University of Kentucky ran an experiment that revealed acetaminophen can relieve the pain of emotional distress just as it does bodily aches.

Love heals, literally. Dopamine, oxytocin, norepinephrine are all released in the brain when we’re in love — the good news is those hormones lower stress levels, reducing cardiovascular stress and improving the immune system, and can decrease anxiety and depression. Another experiment, this time at University of California, Los Angeles, found that women’s pain thresholds went up if they had some type of contact with a romantic partner — holding their partner’s hand, and even just looking at a picture of them.

But those same hormones can wreak some serious havoc on the body too. Too much dopamine and norepinephrine can cause sleeplessness. Dopamine, and chasing its high, can cause an obsessive focus on a loved one that kind of gets in the way of the rest of life. And all three add up to divert blood away from the gut, leaving it in an excited state: nausea, butterflies.

So, keep in mind as you celebrate Valentine’s Day, that as with everything we experience in life, moderation is the key. Even when it pertains to affairs of the heart.

 

 

 

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