As a day associated with chocolate hearts, fluffy toys and red roses, Valentine’s Day has its fair share of cynics. But before you mock Cupid and his wayward arrows, it might be useful to know that there is a good possibility that being in love makes you live longer. This is according to Dr Jacques Snyman, Managing Director, Integrated Care Solutions at Agility.
Agility owns the Zurreal programme, a holistic wellbeing and lifestyle programme aimed at encouraging individuals to embrace life. Research shows that people in loving relationships have a lower death rate than single people. “Even those who have unhealthy lifestyles tend to live longer,” says Dr Snyman. A formal study conducted in 2011 by Brigham Young University in Utah, United States of America, shows that being in love can help you live a longer and healthier life.
The study found that spending time with loved ones can cut the risk of an early death in half since people will often adopt safer behaviours when there’s another person depending on them. Bazil Love (63) and his wife Astrid (52) undoubtedly agree.
After meeting at a friend’s birthday party in 2005, a romantic turn on the dance floor brought them together and eight years and one son later, they can attest to the notion that love can truly enhance your health.
“Love takes your mind off things,” maintains Bazil, who is a Platinum member of the Zurreal programme. “When you’re stressed or troubled, spending time with loved ones really helps.” Dr Snyman agrees, “From a medical perspective, a strong romantic support system protects the body from developing high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This offers protection from various diseases including cardiovascular diseases such as ischaemic heart disease –the precursor of a heart attack.”
“In addition, when you’re in love, the brain produces a chemical called dopamine, a feel-good stimulant that’s responsible for feelings of bliss, optimism and patience,” adds Dr Snyman. This can also help you feel less anxious. “Loving others, I believe, also helps you step outside of yourself,” says Bazil.
Various studies have also shown that a five-minute episode of feeling genuine care or compassion towards someone gives the immune system a boost, causing a gradual increase in the release of immunoglobulin A (IgA), your body’s natural antibody against colds, flu and other invading germs.
Even watching romantic movies has been shown to increase levels of IgA. Little wonder, then, that love can also help you to look younger as it increases blood flow to the skin. “Being in love can increase the supply of essential nutrients and oxygen to your skin cells, making you look healthier,” explains Dr Snyman.
He maintains that people in healthy relationships tend to be more confident in all areas of their life. “It has been proven that getting married and staying married reduces depression in both men and women,” he points out.
The zest for life that love gives Astrid and Bazil is enhanced by the fact that the Loves revel in one another’s company and do many activities together. They have been Zurreal Platinum members for five years and enjoy the many benefits offered by the loyalty programme, especially the gym membership and the partially reimbursed medical check-ups.
“We are both physically very active, as we believe in taking care of our health,” explains Bazil. “In addition, we make sure that we go on holiday every few months as it is important to take time out every now and then, not just for the benefit of our health but also to reconnect and spend quality time with one another and the family.”
Dr Snyman maintains that couples like Brazil and Astrid, who make time for love, are definitely healthier and happier individuals.