11 fascinating facts about your heart

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

1. Matters of the heart

The hardest-working muscle in your body is your heart, according to the Library of Science. It pumps out two ounces of blood at every heartbeat, adding up to at least 2,500 gallons daily. The heart has the ability to beat over 3 billion times in a person’s life.  See also: How Many Times Has Your Heart Beaten So Far?

2. Too much sitting or driving could be trouble

If you want to stay heart healthy, it might make sense to cut back on sitting down, driving and watching the tube. In one analysis of data from nearly 30,000 people in 52 countries, those who owned both a car and TV had a 27% higher risk of heart attack than those who owned neither. However, the researchers caution that lack of physical activity is the culprit, not just what you’re doing while sitting. See also: Are you reading this sitting down? Don’t!

3.  A Mediterranean diet helps

This way of life emphasizes eating foods like fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, high-fibre grains, and olive oils rich with monounsaturated fats, fibre, and omega-3 fatty acids, and limits eating cheese and sweets. Studies suggest that this diet can help to prevent a second heart attack, and that the diet is good for your heart even without weight loss.  See also: Mediterranean Diet: It’s All Greek to Me

4. Pollution hurts more than your lungs

Pollution is bad for your lungs. Now scientists are finding that it’s also toxic for your heart, even at low levels, according to research conducted at the Heart Institute of the Good Samaritan Hospital and the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, both in Los Angeles.

When pollutants are inhaled, they trigger an increase in reactive oxygen species, which are super-oxiding molecules that damage cells, cause inflammation in the lungs, and spark a cascade of harmful effects in the heart and cardiovascular system. Hearts exposed to pollution are also at higher risk for arrhythmias.

5. Hearts can break, literally

Losing a loved one or any kind of traumatic shock can bring overwhelming feelings of grief, depression, and anger. For some people, the shock and stress of bereavement may even bring on a heart attack. A new study of nearly 2,000 heart-attack survivors found that attacks were far more likely to happen soon after the death of a family member or close friend than at other times. The risk of having a heart attack appears to decline as grief subsides.  Read more about Broken Heart Syndrome or Takotsubo:  Yes, Virginia, There Is Such a Thing as a Broken Heart

6. Your heart is your centre

Most people think their hearts are on the left sides. The truth is, your heart is dead centre in the middle of your chest, though it feels like it’s tilted to the left because the largest part of your heart is on the left. Your left lung is smaller than your right to make room for your heart. People with the heart defect called dextrocardia have their hearts on the right side.

7.  Drinking coffee may reduce risks

Coffee drinkers are less likely to be hospitalized or worried about heart rhythm disturbances, even though the caffeine in coffee can make the heart beat faster, reports a surprising study by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in California. The researchers found that those who reported drinking four or more cups of coffee each day had an 18% lower risk of hospitalization for heart rhythm disturbances. Those who reported drinking one to three cups each day had a 7% reduction in risk.

They note, however, that the study does not suggest a cause and effect, and most heart experts are not likely to prescribe coffee as a protective dietary beverage any time soon.  See also: Love Your Morning Coffee, Ladies?

8.   It’s fist-sized

The average heart weighs between 7 and 15 ounces (about what a green pepper weighs) and is a little larger than the size of your fist.  A woman’s heart weighs less than a man’s, and has smaller coronary arteries.

9.   Your heart never stops

It begins beating about 22 days after conception, and stops when you do. By the end of a long life, a human heart can beat up to 3.5 billion times, according to the Texas Heart Institute.  See also: How Many Times Has Your Heart Beaten So Far?

10. Women’s hearts beat faster

About 78 beats per minute, in fact. The male heart beats about 70 beats per minute. But before conception, male and female hearts beat at about the same rate.

11.  A sneeze stops the heart?

That, say heart experts, is simply a myth.  So is cough CPR. So is virtually everything you read in any chain letter e-mail about heart attacks. Do not read them and, whatever you do, don’t forward them on. See also: Is That Chain E-Mail a Hoax? Yes, Probably!

With thanks to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Mayo Clinic, Up To Date, and Health.com

Visit my patient-friendly, no-jargon glossary of hundreds of confusing cardiology terms!


5 thoughts on “11 fascinating facts about your heart

  1. Excellent post. Humans were not designed by nature to be sedentary creatures – you have hit the nail on the head.


  2. Thank you so much for putting all this information in simple point form. Some I already knew (eg good effects of Mediterranean diet) but some are new.

    I am especially interested in the effects of too much sitting on chairs. Coincidentally, in our last yoga class, our leader was talking about the same thing. She suggested kneeling on a folded blanket or pillow (with knees slightly over edge) and sitting back on our heels. A second pillow or other support jammed behind our knees makes all the difference.

    I’m now standing to use my laptop. Thanks.


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