Experts: Valentine’s Day and Heart Month | February 2022

Published: 9 February 2022

February is Heart Month, a time to bring attention to the importance of cardiovascular health, and what we can to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease affects approximately 2.4 million Canadian adults, and is the second leading cause of death in Canada. (Government of Canada

Valentine’s Day brings up important questions related to consumerism, love and relationships, and other topics. 

Here are some experts from McGill University who can provide comment on these topics: 

On the impact of intimate relationships:  

Sarah Brauner-Otto, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology 

“Although we readily recognize the importance of intimate relationships in the lives of individuals, we also need to recognize that those relationships influence others and may do so over long periods. We see that the emotional dynamics within marriages may influence many domains of their children’s lives – such as their work, family, recreation, attitudes, and values – and may do so well beyond the time that children are living in their parents’ home.” 

Sarah Brauner-Otto is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Centre on Population Dynamics. She is a social demographer studying global family change with a focus on the relationship between social contexts.  

sarah.brauner-otto [at] (English)  

On how chocolate impacts our health: 

Christopher Labos, Associate, Office for Science and Society  

“The studies linking chocolate to health benefits are not definitive studies. Firstly, the studies themselves are usually not done with people actually eating chocolate but rather by giving people antioxidants or other compounds found in chocolate and then drawing some inference about health benefits. What is often neglected is that the manufacturing process destroys many of these purportedly beneficial compounds.” 

On maintaining heart health: 

Christopher Labos, Associate, Office for Science and Society 

“There are very simple things we can do to maintain our cardiovascular health. If you exercise regularly, don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet of mainly fruits and vegetables, and monitor medical factors like blood pressure cholesterol and diabetes, then you have controlled the majority of potential cardiovascular risks.” 

Christopher Labos completed his cardiology residency at McGill University where he served as chief resident and then completed a master’s degree in epidemiology before pursuing a research fellowship.  He is currently a cardiologist at Hôpital Notre-Dame and an Associate with the Science and Society at McGill whose mission is to promote critical thinking and present science to the public.   

christopher.labos [at] (English, French) 

Abhinav Sharma, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Divisions of Cardiology and Experimental Medicine 

"Maintaining physical activity is an important part of heart health. If you want to incorporate more physical activity in your daily routine, try taking small incremental steps where possible. For example, stop one floor below where you need to go and walk up one flight of stairs; take a walk around the block when you park your car at home or the garage; or even just stand for a few minutes an hour every day while you work. Done consistently, small additions to your daily routine can have huge heart health benefits over time."    

Abhinav Sharma is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine. His research currently focuses on cardiovascular outcomes and therapy optimization in patients with diabetes and heart failure and the use of digital health to streamline follow-up and therapy selection in patients with heart failure.  

Abhinav.sharma [at] (English) 

On the chemistry of love:  

Joe Schwarcz, Director, Office for Science and Society 

“Often, we hear of two people having the ‘right chemistry’. Are our romantic links really controlled by chemicals? What does science say about this? There is also a lot of interest in purported aphrodisiacs. Science delves into this area as well.” 

Joe Schwarcz is the Director of the Office for Science and Society, which has the mission of separating sense from nonsense. He is well known for his informative and entertaining public lectures on topics ranging from the chemistry of food to the connection between the body and the mind. Recently, the Office has focused on trying to unravel the mysteries of COVID-19. 

Joe.schwarcz [at] (English) 

On consumer behaviour: 

Charles de Brabant, Executive Director, Bensadoun School of Retail Management 

“As a retail expert who has worked around luxury, fashion and creative brands, I understand the importance of the heart in consumer behaviour, especially in these times which are so turbulent in terms of mental health. Authenticity in the messaging and in a brand’s offering will likely be fundamental this Valentine’s Day.” 

Charles de Brabant is the Executive Director of the Bensadoun School of Retail Management at the Faculty of Management. He has over 20 years’ experience in retail in Europe and most recently in China and Southeast Asia.  

charles.debrabant [at] (English, French) 

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