It seems appropriate for an author of a blog on heart failure to devote a post on February 14 to Valentine’s Day. But as I started to think of ideas, it dawned on me that I really did not have a clue why a Saint and the heart become symbols for the romantic love that is celebrated and promoted on Valentine’s Day. I also was clueless as to the significance of the heart throughout time in general.
In fact, when you look into the matter, the origins of Valentine’s Day seem less than romantic. If you don't agree with this statement, you take a look online at sources such as a Smithsonian Magazine article entitled: "The Gory Origins of Valentine’s Day".
If I understand the rather convoluted history, seems that there was a priest named Valentinus who was arrested during the reign of Emperor Gothicus and put into the custody of an aristocrat. After listening to the Valentinus talk about the power of Christ, the aristocrat made a bargain with the Priest: If Valentinus could cure the aristocrat’s foster-daughter of blindness, he would convert. The girl was cured, the aristocrat and his family were baptized, Roman Emperor Gothicus was enraged and had all of them executed, beheading Valentinus. Not sure I see the romantic connection there – do you?
The Smithsonian Magazine article also tells us that it took about 10 centuries and an author by the name of Geoffrey Chaucer to wed the feast of St. Valentine’s day and love. Chaucer linked the February feast of St. Valentinus to the mating of birds. Why? Because back in the day, English birds paired off to produce eggs in February. It wasn’t much after Chaucer’s observation that nature-minded European nobility began sending love notes during bird-mating season. (I wonder if they sent the notes via passenger pigeon as they didn't have UPS or the postal service back then?).
So now we know how a Saint gave us the day that we celebrate the wonders of romantic love. But how did the heart, which is something I wouldn’t want to see beating in real life - become the symbol of the day and the love it commemorates? The Time Magazine website has a really good article from February 14, 2017 entitled “How the Valentine’s Day Heart Got It’s Shape.” Here are some new facts I learned about the heart from the article:
I really like that people recognize that the heart encompasses love of God and humankind, for we wouldn't be here to love our fellow humans if it weren't for God giving us a body for the heart to beat inside.
It occurs to me that if we’re going to use the heart as a symbol of our love, we should make sure that our hearts are around for a while to enjoy that love! And sometimes the traditional gifts that we send to show our love might not be the most heart healthy. So are there any tips online as to gifts that may or may not promote good heart health?
The WebMD archives on-line include an article entitled: “Valentine’s Day, Good for the Heart.” The article opens with the following statements, the first of which is good news from some food and drink connoisseurs:
It is helpful that a medical website is recommending chocolate as good for the heart, especially since (1) so many of us love the stuff, and (2) chocolate has been linked with romantic love and Valentine’s Day for many years. If you want to read a fascinating article on this topic, go to the Smithsonian magazine website and look for the article “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” It provides a good historical review that goes all the way back to the 1300s.
I think the most important point to emphasize here is the concept of moderation. Don’t go love crazy and overload your diet with chocolate and red wine on the flimsy premise that you’re only doing this to improve your heart health. If you want to see the reasons why moderate consumption of these items is good, and also how love helps keep the blood flowing, I invite you to read the WebMD article. And I also invite you to consider the suggestions at the end of the article for other heart healthy items such as pedometers, fruit baskets, field trips, or a funny book.
The Envolvehealth.com website has a February 14, 2017 article called “Protect your Heart This Valentine’s Day.” It includes some food suggestions that can be incorporated year round that might not have occurred to you:
The same article also includes a tip to relax, as stress “directly effects your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, both of which are contributors to cardiovascular disease. Stress can cause you to make unhealthy choices from overeating to inactivity.” The article includes stress management techniques like meditation, list-making, exercising or yoga to help calm your mind and protect your heart. But a number of my friends would also highly endorse a spa gift certificate for loved ones on Valentine’s Day as one of the very best stress management tools.
If you have been putting off having some critical heart screenings, the local CVS drug store is giving you the gift of heart health each Thursday in February (including Valentine’s Day). On February 4, 2019, CVS issued the following press release:
If you are interested in this opportunity, you can find more information in the press release which is on the CVS website.
In case you are under the mistaken impression that your doctors do not have a sense of heart humor, it's time to ditch that impression. If you go to the ABC News website, you will find that cardiologists from Saint Luke’s Health System have created some funny Valentine’s Day memes. Here is the link:
I love seeing that doctors have a sense of humor, especially since my sense of humor usually emerges when I am at a doctor's appointment. I would rather have the doctors remember me as the woman with the wicked sense of humor and not just the woman with the woefully low ejection fraction.
Finally, I give you the gift of knowledge as I close out this Valentine’s Day post. Here from a Washington area radio station (WTOP) is a link to an article on the damage that can be caused by silent heart attacks, also referred to as silent myocardial infarctions. I have never heard of this condition before, and I encourage you to take a look. Happy Valentine's Day!
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. She spent the next 7 years learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth. Then in October 2020, she received a heart transplant. This blog is about her journey of the heart.