Love’s a funny thing. It can be completely intoxicating. It makes your heart beat fast, skip, and even make it feel like it’s going to break.
As far back as humans have pondered the meaning of love, they’ve tied it to the heart. The symbol for the heart has been found carved on the walls of prehistoric caves – although it’s meaning is unclear, it was clearly important enough to record. Philosophers, writers and musicians have linked the two together for centuries, and now that we understand the human body better than ever in history, we know our ancestors weren’t far wrong.
When we fall in love, our bodies release a flood of feel-good chemicals that cause the to heart race. But those first few months of butterflies aren’t where it ends.
Multiple studies have shown that married people tend to live longer and, on balance, married people and people who are currently in love are more satisfied with their love lives. There is also strong evidence supporting the connection between heart disease and the quality of peoples’ relationships. Being in a good relationship can lower your risk of heart disease; whereas being in a bad one can increase it.
Perhaps the strangest effect that love has on the heart is expressed in Broken Heart Syndrome – Tako-tsubo cardiomyopathy. Dying of a broken heart might seem more like the melodramatic threat of a devastated teenager – but it exists. Your likelihood of dying is substantially raised after the death of a significant other.
And if you’re worried about whether love is in the head or the heart – it’s best to keep in mind that the heart is a self-regulating system. Its own electrical impulses keep it beating. That’s why the heart often continues to beat after the body dies.
So, this Valentine’s Day, when you’re showing your affection to the one you love, why not show your heart a little love too?