World Heart Day: How romantic relationships affect your heart health

Most of us know about the giddy, exciting feeling of being in love — the initial fluttering of the heart, and the feeling of butterflies in the tummy. And, even science agrees that being in love is good for the body, mostly the heart. This World Heart Day, let us understand the concept better.

According to Dr Vivek Mahajan, consultant-interventional cardiology, Fortis Hospital Kalyan, and Dr Kedar Tilwe, consultant-psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital Mulund & Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, when one is in a good, healthy relationship, they experience many physical and mental health benefits.

Love and attraction is broadly divided into two phases:

1. The initial attraction phase: Our body releases hormones like norepinephrine and adrenaline as an immediate reaction, which gets us excited. Heartbeat increases, pulse rate rises and pupils dilate when you look at the person you’re romantically drawn to.

2. The chronic, long-lasting phase: After you get to know the person better and feel emotionally attached to them. Our brain releases endorphins, vasopressin and oxytocin. These are beneficial hormones for the overall well-being.

The doctors say that endorphins give us a feeling of joy and satisfaction. You feel safe when with your significant other. Oxytocin and vasopressin help develop a bond between two individuals. These chemicals are responsible for the bonding between a parent and a child. These hormones are also responsible for maintaining one’s heart health.

When a person is cheated on, loses a loved one or parts ways with their lover, they experience an immense amount of stress. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Science also corroborates that when people spend time with their partners, their blood pressure and heart rate decrease from the sense of security and comfort.

“Physical touch has plenty of benefits. When people embrace each other, oxytocin, the bonding hormone, is released, which lowers the blood pressure. A stable, long-term relationship enables a secure base for a person, helping them nurture trust and empathy,” the doctors say.

But, there is also a flipside to relationships, ones that end up giving a person something called a “broken heart syndrome“. According to the experts, when a person is cheated on, loses a loved one or parts ways with their lover, they experience an immense amount of stress. The recovery time may take a month or more than a year.

“Broken heart syndrome, also known as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, is quite common. Cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline are released. Excess of these can give rise to the exact symptoms of a sudden heart attack — sharp chest pain, fainting, shortness of breath, etc. Generally, an ECG cannot differentiate between a heart attack and Takotsubo. But an angiography shows the heart is normal. The person still stays at risk of heart arrhythmia and organ failure.”

The doctors say that people who are in toxic relationships are more prone to heart diseases. “They feel helpless and worthless, which stops them from seeking help. They often believe they are at fault and the emotional trauma they are going through is justified. This leads to acute stress, anxiety, depression, faulty coping mechanisms and lifestyle habits which may cause heart ailments.”

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