A couple in love spends time at the park.

How Love Affects Your Health

You never forget your first love, or any of them for that matter. That’s because the feeling of love plays a crucial role in our lives, impacting not only our emotional well-being but also our physical health. The pain of a lost love can be terrible, but as Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Here’s how love changes your brain and body for the better.

Your Brain in Love

Love is an emotion, but it’s the brain — specifically the limbic system — that’s in control of behavioral and emotional responses. So, when you’re in love, you feel:

  • Euphoria — It’s the giddy excitement from spending time with that special someone. You can even feel it when you think about that person. You feel it because your brain is releasing dopamine. It’s a reward for pleasurable behaviors.
  • Attachment and security — These feelings are the result of a surge of oxytocin. The feelings are stronger after touching, kissing, or sex.
  • Willingness to sacrifice — The longer you’re with your partner, the more likely you are to agree on compromises. This happens because of your vagus nerve.
  • Constant thoughts — Dopamine is partly to blame for this. But so is the anterior cingulate cortex. It’s the same part of the brain that’s linked to obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
  • Less stress — There is research that suggests single people have higher levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol. Those in committed relationships don’t.
  • Jealousy — While seen as a bad thing, jealousy can motivate you to pay more attention to the needs of your partner. Acknowledge jealous feelings. They are normal.
A couple lovingly embraces in the doorway.

Your Body in Love

Beyond the chemical changes happening in your brain, the body itself experiences shifts to account for these feelings. They include: 

  • Lust — You want to have sex. It increases closeness and those urges are perfectly normal. AltaMed provides free birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
  • Overall improvement — There are some physical benefits including:
    • Decreased risk of heart disease
    • Lower blood pressure
    • Improved immune health
    • Faster recovery from illness
  • Longer life span — Academic research showed evidence suggesting the longevity of people in loving, long-term relationships.
  • Pain relief — An extremely small study found participants reported less pain when they saw images of their romantic partner.

Love Hurts

Love is complicated. For all the incredible health benefits we get, there can also be drawbacks, especially early on. Some effects include:

  • Increased stress — This is often in the early stages of the relationship when there may be questions about how someone feels.
  • Butterflies — That stress can manifest in the form of “butterflies” in the stomach. Sometimes that’s good but it can also make you feel pretty queasy.
  • Changes — Sleep and appetite are often affected the most. The butterflies make eating difficult and the questions about how someone feels make it hard to sleep.
  • Poor judgment — Intense feelings can cause your amygdala to shut down. That’s the part of your brain that helps you to detect danger. It’s not fully formed in teenagers which is why you sometimes see young “lovers” do stupid things.
  • Addiction — For some people, the feelings that come from the early stages of a relationship are a little too intoxicating. Instead of letting things progress, they chase that “high” by jumping from partner to partner.

We Love You Just the Way You Are

Whether you’re in a happy relationship, or have a broken heart, our Behavioral Health Services professionals can help relieve any emotional issues you’re dealing with. Call (855) 425-1777 to learn more.

We can also help you with any physical concerns. Click here or call us at (888) 499-9303 to get started.

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

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Grandpa and child reading together.

How to Spend Quality Time with Loved Ones

Now that the holidays are here, it’s a great opportunity to reconnect with your family and friends. However, with phones, computers, and TV taking up so much of our attention, it can be difficult to think of activities that don’t involve screens. This year, why not try to create moments that contribute to your well-being and nurture your relationships? Here are some screen-free, healthy activities to make this season special.

Cook a Healthy Meal Together

Cooking together is a fantastic way to bond and promote healthy eating habits. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, meals made together as a family typically lead to better nutrition, promote healthier behaviors, and can lead to smarter eating in the future. Choose a healthy recipe, shop for ingredients together, and cook a meal as a team.

Family going on a hike together.

Take a Nature Walk

Nature has a huge effect on our mental health and has been linked to improved mood and cognitive function. Gather your loved ones for a walk in a local park, forest, or nature reserve. The physical activity, coupled with the calmness of being outside, will help you feel refreshed.

Engage in Volunteer Work

The act of giving not only helps those in need but can also be incredibly fulfilling. Research shows that volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and reduced stressed levels. This holiday, consider volunteering at a local shelter, food bank, or charity event as a family.

Girl crafting with beads.

Create DIY Gifts

Crafting can be a therapeutic activity that stimulates creativity and helps reduce anxiety. Organize a craft night with your loved ones where you can make gifts for each other. Not only does this provide a meaningful present, but it also creates a space for conversation and laughter.

Practice Group Meditation or Yoga

Meditation and yoga are known for their stress-relieving qualities. In fact, studies have shown yoga can lessen chronic stress patterns, relax the mind, and sharpen concentration. Invite your family to join a yoga session or meditate together to find peace and calm during the hustle of the holiday season.

Attend Community Events

Local holiday events like tree-lighting ceremonies, markets, and choirs are a wonderful way to connect with your community and spend time with loved ones. These activities can enrich your holiday experience and create lasting memories.

Family playing game together.

Play Games

Board games, card games, and physical games like tag or charades encourage face-to-face interaction and can be a lot of fun. Playing games together as a family also helps create emotional connection and positive communication.

Making The Season Merry

Incorporating these activities into your holiday plans can lead to a richer, more fulfilling season. Remember, the heart of the holiday is not about the flurry of activities, but about the warmth and love shared between family and friends. So, this year, let’s turn off our screens and turn toward each other, creating healthy, joyful memories that will last a lifetime.

Be The Example This Holiday

When it comes to good physical and mental health, lead by example. AltaMed has all manner of resources to help you eat right, move right, and take better care of yourself. Let our team of bilingual certified enrollment counselors help you explore program options that work best for you and your family. 

Call AltaMed at (888) 499-9303.

Heart Exam

It’s Time to Check on Your Heart

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, maybe hearts have been on your mind. And while it’s fun to celebrate with candy hearts, your real heart deserves a moment too. 

February is American Heart Month, aimed at increasing awareness of heart health. According to the CDC, someone suffers a heart attack every 40 seconds in the United States. Heart disease is a serious issue and accounted for 1 in 5 deaths in 2020. Luckily, overall cases are on the decline. This month, make sure you’re giving your heart the love it deserves.

Tick the Right Boxes

Heart disease is, to an extent, genetic. It can be passed from one generation to another. However, by building healthy habits, you can lower your risk. The steps below will not only improve your overall health but keep your heart in tip-top shape:

  • Eat healthy — Reduce your intake of processed foods like lunchmeat, chips, candy, and fast food. Make your meals colorful with lots of leafy green vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy.
  • Start moving — You don’t have to run a marathon. Just move about 30 minutes a day. Take a brisk walk after dinner or first thing in the morning. It’s important to get your heart rate up for a total of 150 minutes a week.
  • Control cholesterol and blood pressure — More exercise, more fiber in your diet, less red meat, and less dairy will all contribute to lowering your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Decreasing salt also helps.
  • Don’t drink excessively — It can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart failure, or stroke. Excessive drinking can also lead to obesity which is a contributing factor in heart-related diseases.
  • Reduce stress — Prolonged stress can cause long-term damage to health including cardiovascular disease. Try to remove or reduce stressors in your life.

Other Risk Factors

Ignoring the tips above can lead to a higher risk of developing heart disease. There are some other factors outside your control like family history. You’re also at higher risk if:

  • You’re a woman over 55
  • You’re a man over 45
  • Your father or brother had heart disease before 55
  • Your mother or sister had heart disease before 65

Jump Start a Healthy Heart

There is so much you can do to take care of your heart that it may be a little overwhelming. AltaMed is here to help get you on a path to healthy living and keep you there.

Our Healthy Heart Program encourages participants to live a heart-healthy lifestyle. Each week, we’ll focus on topics likes stress management, exercise, nutrition, and medication compliance. The program maintains a positive, support group-type environment. Participants work together and motivate each other to succeed.

It is recommended for people who want to achieve healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Call (323) 558-7606 to enroll.

How Love Affects Your Health