5 Tips for a Heart Healthy Date: February is the month of love and so much more!
Move over, Cupid: Valentine’s Day doesn’t have a monopoly on this short-but-mighty month! In order to raise awareness about heart disease and how to prevent it, February is National Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the US. Every year, one in four deaths are caused by heart disease. Heart disease doesn’t happen just to older adults. It is happening to younger adults more and more often. This is partly because the conditions that lead to heart disease (including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity) are happening at younger ages.
The good news is that heart disease can often be prevented when people manage their health conditions and make healthier choices, like not smoking, being physically active and eating better. Even small changes can make a difference, and you can try some out on your heart healthy date!
February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Dating violence is more common than many people think. One in three teens in the US will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults. Nearly half (43%) of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month encourages parents and youth to take an inventory of their relationships. Visit loveisrespect.org for conversation starters and resources. If you’re not a parent, you can be a role model for the young adults in your life by showing attention to your partner in healthy ways. Keep reading for five tips on how to make a date healthy for your heart and your spirit!
Tip #1: Get Creative With Your Invitation
Beyond boring, February is known as Creative Romance Month. Planning time together is very important for all duos, regardless of how long a couple has been together. Trying new and different things can help a relationship be more romantic and fun!
Tips 2 through 4 include unique date ideas, so why not start off by making an impression with a creative invitation? Use the invitation as a way to showcase your skills. If you’re musically inclined, compose a singing telegram! Does your partner love puzzles? Draw or print out an invitation and cut it into jigsaw pieces! Not the artistic type? Nowadays so much of our lives are planned via text message or Facebook events that a simple handwritten note is an easy way to make an extra effort. Your partner will appreciate the thought as well as get excited for the date.
Tip #2: Go To A Farmers Market
Did you know we have two year-round farmers markets on Saturdays right here in the Napa Valley? The Calistoga Farmers Market is from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Sharpsteen Plaza at 1234 Washington Street and the Napa Farmers Market is from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the South Napa Century Center parking lot at 195 Gasser Drive. Take a stroll down the local produce-packed aisles and pick up what you need for to make a heart healthy meal (Tip #4).
Here’s another fun fact: February is National Grapefruit Month! In addition to being a sweet and tangy treat, grapefruits are extremely heart healthy. Grapefruits are high in vitamins A and C, which will help keep your eyes, skin, gums and teeth healthy while protecting against infections and helping cuts heal. They also contain potassium, an essential mineral that helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Farmers markets are the perfect place to get your grapefruit from a local farmer!
Tip #3: Do Something Active
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least two and a half hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity exercise per week for adults. Walking, hiking, biking: anything that gets your heart beating faster and leaves you a little breathless counts. Being active with your date can be good for your heart in more ways than one! Lab studies show that after jointly participating in an exciting physical challenge or activity, couples report feeling more satisfied with their relationships and more in love with their partner.
The Napa Valley Vine Trail is the perfect place to get your blood pumping surrounded by beautiful vistas. Currently the Vine Trail has a 12.5 mile uninterrupted stretch from Kennedy Park in Napa to Yountville. The paved trail is flat, so everyone can enjoy being outside at pace appropriate for their fitness level, and dog-friendly, so you can even bring your furry friends. Visit vinetrail.org to plan your route.
Tip #4: Make A Heart Healthy Meal
To be good to year heart when you eat, try to fill at least half your plate with vegetables and fruits, and aim for low sodium options. Before heading to the farmers market, check out the American Heart Association recipe collection at recipes.heart.org. Search for recipes featuring seasonal favorites, like broccoli, beets and sweet potatoes.
I’m a big fan of nachos, so it’s no surprise I was tempted by the American Heart Association’s Sweet Potato Nachos recipe. Perhaps you’ll have more luck at making the sweet potato “chips” crispier than mine. Even though my nachos didn’t come out with the crunch of a chip, they were very satisfying in a couple ways. First, let’s be real: the best part of nachos are the toppings! In addition to avocados, I went for sliced organic cherry tomatoes (from the grocery store, since tomatoes aren’t in season at the farmers market), radishes, purple cabbage, green onions and jalapeños to give it an extra kick. Second, the sweet potatoes provided a hearty, filling base with fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C.
Tip #5: Make Plans To Give Back
Beyond helping our community, there is science behind why it is good to give back for the individual. Helping others causes us to release a hormone called oxytocin, which causes us to feel a closer bond to others. Spending time volunteering together will help build companionship through a meaningful, shared experience and give you plenty to talk about.
While enjoying your heart healthy meal, find a cause that you’re both passionate about. Then, check out the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership at volunteer.cvnl.org. There are plenty of opportunities right here in the Napa Valley that you and your partner can support!