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Can love improve your health? It may depend on the type of love you're experiencing

Good Question: Can love improve your health?
Good Question: Can love improve your health? 02:44

MINNEAPOLIS -- Love for your partner, family, even friends is celebrated on Valentine's Day. We know the warm feeling can bring us no matter the time of year. 

But what if there's more to that feeling? How can love improve your health? Good Question. 

Jeff Wagner learned its power, from your heart to your mind.

How does the feeling of love impact the heart? It depends on what type of love you're experiencing, said Dr. Michelle Carlson, a cardiologist with Hennepin Healthcare. 

"If it's new love, it's exciting. We're going to have hormones released in our body, hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine," said Dr. Carlson.

Those hormones raise your blood pressure and heart rate, which is good for the heart in short bursts.

"Lets say it's love that's been there for a while, love that has some calmness with it, whether that's love for a partner or your dog or your friend, that's going to bring release of oxytocin," said Dr. Carlson.

Oxytocin will lower your blood pressure and help calm your nervous system.

There are reports that people who are married live longer. How does lasting love impact the heart? The first way is again through oxytocin, helping lower someone's blood pressure across their lifespan. The second is the support system that comes through having a loved one over the years.

"Someone who will remind you to take your medications. Someone who will help your mental health so that you'll be more willing and able to take care of yourself for the long term," said Dr. Carlson.

Improving the health of the heart is only part of love's power. Another area it can help out is our mental health.

What are the benefits of having love for our brain? 

"When people are socially supported, valued, connected, and respected by others, this results in a sense of belonging and security, and this can actually reduce the impact of stress," said Dr. Kaz Nelson, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Minnesota Medical School. "Whereas we know high stress is a risk factor for many mental illnesses, including illnesses related to anxiety and depression disorders."

The mental health benefit could come from a group, such as your family, or a significant other.

Love releases several hormones in the brain. Some, like dopamine, cause euphoria. Others, like oxytocin and vasopressin, lead to calmness, security, and attachment, which can be vital in maintaining long-term relationships.

"[Love is] one of the core pleasurable activities that humans can engage in," said Dr. Nelson.

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