February 13, 2019
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Emad Noor, M.D. contributes to topics such as Neurology.
Sara Scheller BSN, RN, CCRN, NBC-HWC contributes to topics such as Integrative Health and Medicine.
By: Katie Lynch
I’m everything I am, because you loved me.
With these famous words, Celine Dion elegantly illustrates how the steady love of her partner kept her going even through the darkest times. Is it possible for love to have this much power? Can love and strong relationships actually support good health and well-being?
If you’re spending Valentine’s Day with someone you love, or you’re single and still searching for that special someone, the following evidence demonstrates just how effective love can be for keeping you happy and healthy.
However, when we reference love, it is important to note there are differences between lust, attraction and love. The health benefits you get from being in love are what come in an established relationship – once trust, attachment and companionship are solidified.
Always On My Mind – Love is good for you brain and mental health.
A report from the Health and Human Services found that getting married and staying married reduced depression in both men and women. With social isolation and loneliness directly correlated to depression, this study supports the connection between long-term companionship and long-term happiness.
“Being with a spouse, or a long-term partner can give us a sense of calm or ease,” shares integrative nurse health coach, Sara Scheller, BSN, RN. “When you have someone that you can be totally comfortable with, and open up to, it allows for us to share a vulnerability that we may otherwise keep to ourselves. This kind of openness helps with stress levels and overall health.”
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., and it is not uncommon for those who are diagnosed with anxiety to be diagnosed with depression. “When you’re in a difficult situation, you can sometimes be reactive. You are reacting negatively towards that situation, and it can be hard to see past it. When you have a partner that you are totally comfortable with, you can be your true self, and speak freely. They can remind you who you are – bringing you down from that heightened emotion,” shares Scheller.
Being in a loving, supportive relationship can also improve your sleep. A study with almost 700 married or cohabiting adults, aged 35 to 86 years old, found that those who perceived their partner to be responsive to their needs slept better.
“This isn’t all that surprising – if you’re in a relationship where you feel supported, safe and even protected, you’re less likely to experience anxiety or tension, therefore bettering your night’s rest,” explains neurologist and clinical neurophysiologist, Emad Noor, M.D.
Your Body is a Wonderland – Love has physical health benefits.
Being in a healthy, loving relationship also provides benefits for heart health. Various studies have been conducted surrounding relationships, marriage and blood pressure. The bottom line is – those who are happy in their relationships see lower blood pressures. This means a reduced risk of stroke, heart attack or heart failure.
If you are feeling hurt or pain, look at your loved one, just the sight of them can deliver pain relief.
“A 2010 study found that even looking at the photo of your romantic partner could result in activating the reward processing parts of the brain, like the amygdala and hypothalamus”, shares Dr. Noor.
Igniting the reward centers of your brain may trigger the release of natural opioids, lessening pain.
It’s not superhuman ability, its love. Being in a positive relationship may also promote faster wound healing! A group of researchers gave couples small blister wounds and were instructed to discuss a marital disagreement. The couples who interacted more amicably and lovingly saw their wounds heal about 60% faster than their more hostile counterparts.
Being in a loving relationship can also help you live longer. A nearly 80-year study tracked the lives of about 700 men, repeatedly interviewing them and conducting physical testing. The secret sauce to having a long, happy and healthy life? Feeling and expressing love in committed relationships. According to the study, having someone else to rely on helps your nervous system relax, preserves brain function and lessens physical pain. It also found that those who are happiest in their relationships at age 50, were the healthiest at age 80, compared to the other participants.
“We see it quite often, women in particular, but the partner in the relationship looks out for their loved one’s health. They are the ones who push towards going to the doctor, and going for those crucial health screenings,” Scheller notes. “This could also be why we see longer lifespans and better outcomes for those who are married or in committed relationships.”
“I worked with a couple who had been married a long time; the husband had recently had open heart surgery. For Valentine’s Day, through the years they had celebrated in all the conventional ways, and wanted to do something different, so they had stress tests done together,” shares Scheller. “It turned out that he had an abnormality, ultimately leading to a need for bypass surgery. He wasn’t having any symptoms, so if they hadn’t decided to do this test, it may have been a very different story.”
(Everything I Do) I Do It for You – Love gives you purpose.
“Purpose is what gets you out of bed in the morning. For all the things we do in life, it is the why. Having a loving companion, can be your purpose. This is so important for all human beings, especially those that have had any health complications,” mentions Scheller.
“As a health coach, I like to connect my patients to their purpose. This helps build their resilience. When they start talking about their purpose, whether it is the need to provide for their families, hoping to travel with their partner, or be present for the birth of a grandchild, their purpose is what pulls them through. They focus on that goal, and they realize that’s why they want and need to get better,” Scheller reflects.
As if you needed another reason to shower your loved one with affection this Valentine’s Day, remind them how their love has benefited your life and health.
Practicing at the JFK Neuroscience Institute at JFK Medical Center, Dr. Noor is a board certified neurologist and expert in neurology and neurophysiology. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Noor call 732-321-7010. To find a provider near you, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org.
Sara Scheller is a Registered Nurse and Integrative Nurse Health Coach for the Integrative Health & Medicine program at Hackensack Meridian Health, partnering with people to make lasting lifestyle and behavior changes for optimal health and well-being. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Sara call 732-994-7855. To learn more about Integrative Health & Medicine click here.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.