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Give your Valentine the gift of health

February 08, 2016

Love is truly in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches.

If you’re stressing about the perfect gift for your loved one, while also trying to be creative, why not opt for the perfect solution – the gift of health.

Given that February is also Heart Health Month, consider some healthy choices that will not only warm your love’s heart, but also preserve it.

Chocolate can actually be a healthy choice. Just make sure that the label reads “dark.”

Dr. Gregory Giugliano, associate director of Cardiac Catheterization and Research in the Heart & Vascular Program at Baystate Health supports the claims that dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate.

“Various studies over the years have shown that eating as little as a quarter of an ounce of chocolate each day may lower your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. But, to maximize the benefits, the chocolate should be dark,” he said.

The same goes for wine when it comes to health.

Red wine is also a positive contributor to maintaining a healthy heart. Both dark chocolate and red wine contain antioxidants, which help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. However, like anything, these treats should stay a “treat” and be enjoyed in moderation, warned Dr. Giugliano.

“Too much alcohol can also be harmful, leading to high blood pressure, heart failure, some cancers, liver disease and other problems. But many doctors won’t discourage someone from enjoying a glass of red wine if it’s already part of their daily routine,” he said.

Registered dietitian Sheila Sullivan RD, a clinical dietitian in the department of Food and Nutrition Services at Baystate agrees. “When it comes to eating chocolate, we’re talking an amount a day that is equal to one small Easter egg, about the size of a Hershey’s Kiss," said Sullivan. “While for wine drinkers, it means an average of one five-ounce glass a day for women and two for men.”

But, maintaining a healthy heart requires much more than a drink of red wine or a piece of dark chocolate. Consider the following additional healthy gifts for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, especially if those treats don’t suit your love’s fancy:

• Yoga classes

• Incense candles for stress relief and relaxation

• Gym membership/personal training sessions

• Cooking classes to learn the nutritional benefits from preparing healthy meals

• Smoothie maker

• Workout attire, which can serve as an even better incentive to go to the gym and show off one's newest fashions

• Waterproof headphones for the sauna or running outdoors in the rain

• Healthy cookbooks

• Fitbit or other fitness trackers

• Sneakers with good support to help one's running or walking efforts

• Bicycle

• Spa gift certificate for stress relief and relaxation

• Pedometer

• Treadmill

• A dog to walk

• Exercise video

• Crossfit membership.

For more information on the Heart & Vascular Program at Baystate Health, visit baystatehealth.org/heart.