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A healthy heart: what’s love got to do with it?

A healthy heart: what’s love got to do with it?

From reducing stress to bonding and blood circulation, the hormones released when people are in love can significantly benefit the heart

Love and other positive emotions reduce stress hormones, and improve heart health.

Love has something for our hearts. Studies have shown that people in loving relationships experience low blood pressure and stress and have a lower risk of developing heart diseases. Love is associated with positive emotions; these can have startling effects on health.

“Love and other positive emotions reduce stress hormones and release the positive hormone [endorphin], which has positive effects on overall health such as lowering blood pressure and heart rate,” says Dr Nihar Mehta, consultant, cardiology, Jaslok Hospital and Research Center, Mumbai.

Happiest Health lists five ways love could have a positive impact on cardiac health.

Improves heart health

Love can have a positive impact on heart health. Research has shown that people in happy and committed relationships have a reduced risk of heart disease and a lower risk of heart attack and stroke.

Love can also help reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation in the body.

Oxytocin is a hormone released during physical touch such as hugging or cuddling.

A review article published in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research on the role of oxytocin in cardiovascular regulation found that oxytocin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the cardiovascular system. It reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines — molecules that promote inflammation. Additionally, oxytocin has been shown to increase blood flow and improve blood vessel function, which can also help reduce heart inflammation.

A study of 10,000 men published in the American Journal of Medicine found that those who felt “loved and supported” by their partner had a lower risk of angina (chest pain due to less flow of blood to the heart.)

Improves mood and happiness

“Make up, don’t break up to stay emotionally and physically healthy,” says Dr Guruprasad, cardiac electrophysiologist, Fortis Hospital, Vadapalani, Chennai.

Being in love can positively impact our mood and overall happiness. According to Dr Guruprasad, “Whenever we see our loved ones or when we are in their company, our brain often receives sensory signals which stimulate the hippocampus and hypothalamus that are connected to the reward centres of our brain.”

The hypothalamus sends a neural message for the release of more endorphins (hormones that are released when we are in pain or when we feel pleasure) in such situations. He further adds that the hippocampus is where we have our memory and when stimulated, it makes us remember and relish the good times we have had with our partner or friend. 

Improves blood circulation

“Oxytocin has positive effects on the heart. It helps lower blood pressure and improves blood flow to the heart,” says Dr Mehta.

 According to a journal article published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, people in high-quality romantic relationships have reduced blood pressure, specifically during social interactions with their partners.

Dr Guruprasad highlights that when we are with our loved ones, excess endorphins are released into the blood. These dilate and relax the blood vessels and muscles, and lead to better blood circulation throughout the body. This is why we often blush in the company of our loved ones.

“The blood vessels on our faces are seen more prominently and that is why our cheeks become red or pink as we blush. It is like someone is giving a very relaxing massage to our blood vessels,” he says.

It can be a stress buster

One of the most significant benefits of love is its ability to reduce stress levels. Stress is a major contributor to many health problems, including heart disease. When we experience stress, our bodies release cortisol, a hormone that can increase blood pressure, heart rate and the risk of heart attack and stroke.

“The stress-busting ability of endorphins could lead to muscle relaxation and better blood circulation,” says Dr Guruprasad.

He adds that the opposite happens when a person is stressed out — the body will release more adrenaline apart from cortisol which increases the blood pressure and stress, and constricts the blood vessels, thus reducing blood supply. Sudden emotional stress could lead to stress cardiomyopathy (broken heart syndrome).

Dr Guruprasad says that being in the presence of our loved ones and family is the greatest stress buster. Stress is one of the main causes of cardiac complications and anything that reduces stress including love is good for our heart health.

Gives a hormonal push to wellness and also improves immunity

Nicknamed the ‘love hormone,’ oxytocin is associated with arousal and feelings of love and bonding.

Research also indicates that the oxytocin-secreting system (OSS) plays a major role in the neuroendocrine-immune network that could lead to a better immune response against various conditions.


Experts say that it’s not just romantic love that can help your heart. Having close, loving relationships with your friends and family can also help.

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