Have a heart-healthy Valentine's Day

On Feb. 14, hearts are the star of the show. Of course, they don't look anything like the real deal—the hardworking muscle that sets the beat for life every day, all year long.

To show your love for all the beating hearts you hold dear, why not plan a heart-healthy Valentine's Day? These four ideas can get you started:

1. Roses are red…and so are strawberries. Dip them in dark chocolate for a delicious treat that provides flavonoids from the chocolate and fiber, phytochemicals and potassium from the fruit--all of which promote heart health. And for a meal that's true to the day's festive hue, include dishes that feature red produce such as apples, beets, cherries, grapes, peppers and pomegranate seeds.

2. Exercise is one key to a healthy heart. So plan an active date with your heartthrob. Skate hand-in-hand around the local ice rink. Try something active together, like hitting balls at an indoor batting cage or driving range. Dance the night away. And make a pact to exercise together regularly.

3. Valentine's Day gifts can be both from the heart and for the heart, especially if they help reduce stress. Although stress hasn't been directly linked to heart disease, it can cause heart-related health issues—like higher blood pressure and damaged arteries.

Possible gifts for reducing stress include:

• Gym membership

• Gift certificate for a massage

• Scented soap to use in a soothing bath

4. Kids are sweethearts too. To set a healthy example for your little valentines, take them on an active family outing every Feb. 14. For classroom parties, help kids choose healthy tokens of affection, like whole-wheat pretzels (the heart-shaped ones, of course!) or mini boxes of raisins decorated with seasonal stickers.

Valentine's Day comes just once a year. But it's a great reminder to strive for a lifetime of healthy hearts.

For more information about Rush Oak Park Hospital’s cardiac care or to schedule an appointment with a heart doctor, visit Roph.org or call (708) 660-4636.

Sources: American Heart Association; American Institute for Cancer Research; Produce for Better Health Foundation