Couples who enjoy cuddling may have less stress, and a lower risk of heart disease. A recent study at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill found that hugging releases a calming hormone called oxytocin, especially in women. What's oxytocin? It's the same calming chemical released when women breast feed, it's the "tend and befriend" hormone, which seems to encourage women to be nurturing and comforting to others. Men don't get as much of an oxytocin boost when they're hugged, because testosterone seems to dampen the urge for social bonding--But it does affect their health in other positive ways. Here are the facts.

  • Happy couples who hug for 20 seconds have significantly higher levels of calming, heart-healthy oxytocin.
  • When a situation is stressful, the blood pressure in couples who hugged does goes up, but 50 percent less than couples who hadn't hugged.
  • And women with high levels of oxytocin produce fewer stress hormones, which can damage the heart.

So, want to get heart-healthy? Hug your sweetie for at least 20 seconds a day.