Protect your heart with your favorite confection
Your heart is fluttering... you're weak in the knees... and it's hard to catch your breath.
When you were a teenager, those symptoms meant "love at first sight!"
But when you get to be our age, it's more likely that they're signs of a heart condition called atrial fibrillation.
Also known as "a-fib" for short, the condition is characterized by an irregular, rapid heartbeat -- and as if that wasn't scary enough, it also raises your risk of stroke.
Now, when you're young and your heart skips a beat, your romance might be filled with roses and boxes of chocolates.
And according to a new study, you might want to continue indulging in chocolate -- because it can reduce your risk of developing a-fib in the first place!
Just make sure it's dark chocolate.
The study out of Denmark tracked the chocolate consumption of 55,000 people between the ages of 50 and 64 over the course of just over a dozen years.
It turned out that those who ate one to three 1-oz servings of chocolate each month were 10 percent less likely to be diagnosed with a-fib than those who ate fewer or no servings.
And the more chocolate participants ate, the LOWER their risk was.
Four servings a month -- or one serving a week -- led to an average 17 percent lower a-fib risk across both male and female participants. But ladies, you can rejoice -- because eating an ounce of chocolate once a week lowered women's risk of a-fib by 21 percent.
Two to six weekly servings led to a risk reduced by, on average, 20 percent. And gentleman, the news is even better for you -- because the greatest risk reduction in the entire study was for men who ate two to six weekly servings, lowering their chances of a-fib by 23 percent!
That doesn't mean you should book your trip to sail down a chocolate river at Willy Wonka's chocolate factory just yet.
Because eventually, the benefits leveled off.
Those who ate seven or more weekly servings -- that is, who developed a daily chocolate habit -- only reduced their a-fib risk by 14 percent.
Translation: chocolate in MODERATION can be a very good thing!
Now, not all chocolate is created equal when it comes to heart health.
The best stuff is dark chocolate, not only because it tends to be lower in sugar, but also because it has a higher amount of cacao -- which is chock-full of antioxidant plant compounds called flavonoids, which are known to improve your blood vessel function.
And maintaining healthy blood vessels is essential to preventing a-fib.
Of course, you can't rely on chocolate alone to protect your heart.
Obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure have all been found to lead to a-fib, so you want to keep your weight and BP in check by eating a heart-healthy diet (I recommend Paleo) and staying active.
Studies also show that vitamin C and weekly yoga classes can reduce a-fib episodes in those with the disease and may even prevent a-fib altogether.