You will already know that one of the most important facts about your heart is that it is a vital organ and you simply can’t live without it, but how many other facts do you know? You are constantly told how important it is to look after your heart – really important, because heart disease is the biggest killer of women over 20 in the USA – so, I think it would be helpful to share some facts about your heart.
Although described as an organ, one of the interesting facts about your heart is that it is actually a muscle. In fact, it is also the hardest working muscle in your body. It has to cope with the 3 billion plus heartbeats in an average person’s lifetime, as well as pumping 2 ounces of blood with every beat, which equates to 2,500 gallons each day.
The heart is made up of four chambers known as the left and right ventricles and the left atrium and the right atrium. The atria are the upper chambers on each side and the ventricles, the lower. The chambers are connected to the circulatory system by veins and arteries.
Essentially the heart is a four-chamber pump. The valves in the heart control the inflow and outflow of blood, ensuring the blood can only go the way it should when the heart muscles contract and relax (i.e. beat). Like all parts of the amazing human body, the heart is incredibly well organized. Veins take blood to the heart and arteries take it away. In the cardiac cycle, the chambers are made smaller when the heart contracts, pushing blood into the blood vessels; when the muscles relax, the chambers get bigger, filling with blood coming back into the heart.
You also need to know that the blood passing through the heart is oxygenated or deoxygenated. Deoxygenated blood goes into the heart via the vena cava. It is then pumped into the pulmonary artery to be carried to the lungs to be re-oxygenated. The re-oxygenated blood passes back to the heart from the lungs via the pulmonary veins and then is distributed from the heart via the aorta. This is one of the facts of the human heart that can be attributed to William Harvey, who published his report way back in 1628.
One of the commonly thought of facts about the human heart that is misleading is that it sits to the left in the chest. (This is why when pledging allegiance, people put their hands on their left chest.) In fact, the heart is centrally positioned within the rib cage and it is only that the largest part of the heart is on the left that makes it feel this way. To make room for your heart, the left lung is smaller than the right lung. If you have dextrocardia, your heart is more on the right side.
Considering how vital it is and how hard it has to work, the heart is surprisingly small. It is not much larger than a clenched fist and it weighs between 7 and 15 ounces. The average female heart is 8 oz and the male, 10 oz.
One of the heart facts showing the difference between the sexes is that a woman’s heart beats faster than a male heart. The average female heart beats 78 times a minute compared to the male 70 beats a minute. This all equates to about 100,000 heartbeats every day. A fetal heart beats about 150 times a minute. Your heart begins to beat about 22 days after conception and will continue to beat until your death.
During your lifetime your heart will pump up to 1.5 million barrels of blood around your body. Every part of your body, except your corneas, is supplied with blood. 22% goes to the kidneys, 15-20% goes to the brain and 5% supplies the heart.
The heartbeat is audible due to the sound made by the valves opening and closing. It is this that can be heard through a stethoscope. Did you know that the stethoscope was invented by a French doctor who thought it improper to put his ear to his female patients' chests in order to hear their heartbeat?
It may seem like just a colloquial term for great sadness, but a study undertaken by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center concludes that hearts do break. The study involved nearly 2,000 survivors of heart attacks and it found that heart attacks are more likely to occur soon after the death of a close friend or family member and the risk declines as grief subsides.
The next time someone tells you that laughter is the best medicine, don’t scoff – it’s true. One of the facts about your heart is that when it is working well you have more blood flowing through, which is beneficial to your entire body. When you laugh you can increase blood flow by up to 20%, through the increased action of your blood vessels relaxing and expanding.
Whatever the facts about your heart tell you, one thing is undeniable. Your heart truly is a vital organ and deserves to be looked after. Do you look after yours or are you at risk of an unhealthy heart?
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