How Hugs, Not Drugs, Make Hearts Healthy
As I remind you often, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer among American men. In fact, cardiovascular disease will kill 1 out of every 4 men!
The bad news is that 1 on 4 men will die of heart disease. The good news is that 3 out of 4 will not. And the question is, what do those 3 out of 4 do that keeps their hearts healthy?
Of course, as we’ve seen in previous articles, there are many things you can do to protect your heart. Walking, getting enough sleep, sunlight, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables are some of those things. But it turns out that there’s another surprising thing that has powerful heart protecting effects.
What is that surprising thing?
Well, actually, it’s something called oxytocin. But hugs are one of the most powerful ways to naturally increase your own levels of heart-protecting oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a natural hormone in both women and men. Although it is spelled similarly to oxycodone, it’s completely different. Oxycodone is an addictive opiate drug. But oxytocin is a natural hormone that you want more of. And in this article I’ll be explaining how you can get more of it.
For years many people thought that oxytocin was just a woman’s hormone even though both men and women produce it naturally. The reason for that mistake is that women produce a lot of it during childbirth. But part of the reason for the high levels of oxytocin during childbirth is that it increases strong bonds between mother and child.
Oxytocin creates strong bonds between any people, not just mother and child. It turns out that oxytocin levels increase dramatically between couples when they form long-term, loving relationships. Oxytocin is also increased in fathers who love their children, people who love their pets, and people who have feelings of trust and warmth for others.
Oxytocin has been called the “cuddle hormone” because it is part of the reason why it feels good to cuddle with loved ones.
But apart from just feeling good, oxytocin also has been shown to improve our health in other ways.
People who feel lonely and isolated suffer from much higher levels of a long list of diseases, including cardiovascular disease. One of the reasons may be low levels of oxytocin. But when people are able to elevate their levels of oxytocin, research shows that all kinds of good things happen. As oxytocin levels increase, blood pressure normalizes, heart rate improves, circulation increases, and overall cardiovascular health grows dramatically. In fact, studies have shown that oxytocin can actually regenerate heart tissue.
Men are at the highest risk for low oxytocin levels. That’s because testosterone can actually lower oxytocin levels. Although as men we want to maintain healthy levels of testosterone, we also want to maintain healthy levels of oxytocin. So we have to balance the two.
Although some drug makers are working on synthetic oxytocin drugs, the safest and best way to increase oxytocin is to do it naturally. And fortunately, increasing oxytocin naturally isn’t difficult to do.
Connecting with others, particularly through touch, is the best way to increase oxytocin. Here are some of the proven things you can do to boost your levels.
- Get or give a massage. Better yet, make it a massage exchange between you and a loved one. But a professional massage will also increase oxytocin levels. Massage combines touch with therapeutic or loving intent, which is proven to provide many healthy benefits. Some of those benefits are the result of increased oxytocin.
- Pet your pet. This will come as no surprise to many enthusiastic pet owners. But research has shown that even a few minutes of petting a dog or cat can dramatically increase oxytocin levels.
- Spend time connecting with people. We each have opportunities to connect with people in our lives on a regular basis. Whether it’s our wives, our kids, our friends, our siblings, or even our neighbors and co-workers. But the quality of those interactions can make a big difference in how we feel and our health. Research shows that when we take the time to really be present and appreciative with people, it increases our oxytocin levels. So take the time to be fully present in your interactions with others. Turn off televisions, tablets, and smartphones, and look other people in the eyes. Listen with empathy. Even if you are only having a brief conversation, make those few minutes count.
- When you watch movies, choose those that touch the heart. Believe it or not, research has shown that the types of movies you choose can influence your oxytocin levels. While action, thriller, and sci-fi movies may be entertaining, they don’t boost oxytocin. But movies that cause us to feel empathy have been shown to increase oxytocin levels by nearly 50 percent.
- Have more loving sex. Not surprisingly, sex is shown to increase oxytocin levels.
- And finally, I’ve saved the best for last. Hug more people more often and for longer. Hugs are one of the most powerful ways to increase oxytocin. And not only that, but hugs have been shown to increase oxytocin for longer than many other things. In fact, hugs can increase oxytocin for ten times longer than sex! The most effective hugs are those that are the longest. They needn’t be exclusively with your lover either. Hugs between friends and even between strangers have been shown to increase oxytocin.
Surprising as it may be, one of the best things you can do for your heart health is to spend more time naturally raising your oxytocin. And the best ways to do that are easy and free. Spend more loving time with those you love. Hug more people more often. Do these things, and you’ll notice the benefits.