6 fascinating facts about your heart

heart health


 Your heart – you’ve gotta love it.  This amazing organ has been faithfully pumping blood throughout your body keeping you alive even before you entered the world and will continue to do so until the day you die.  Your heart is considered so special that love songs croon about it while poems eloquently express how our hearts can be filled with joy or sorrow. No matter how you feel about it, you can’t live without it.

Other than beating 24 hours a day, how much do you really know about your heart?  Have you ever considered how amazing your ticker really is?  Here are 6 fascinating facts giving you a new appreciation of why you should love your heart even more.

It’s a universal symbol of love

No matter where you go in the world, everyone agrees, the heart is a universal symbol for love. Since the dawn of time, all cultures have had their own interpretation of how they view the heart.  The Greeks believed the heart was the seat of the spirit, the Chinese associated it with the center for happiness, and the Egyptians thought the emotions and intellect arose from the heart.  Why exactly the heart thought of as a symbol of love is unclear, but no matter how it came about, we can all love the fact it is used to represent this sentiment.

There is such a thing as a ‘broken heart”

The term “suffering from a broken heart” has literally been used to describe when one experiences a breakup or loss of a loved one. But this familiar saying actually has merit and an actual name of broken heart syndrome.  Receiving unexpected, devastating news actually can lead to a broken heart in the form of heightened risk for a heart attack.  Simply hearing bad news can trigger the release of stress hormones into the bloodstream that temporarily “stun” the heart.  The resulting symptoms mimic those of a heart attack – chest pain and shortness of breath – but this type of achy heart can bounce back in days with rest and relaxation.

There’s power in that pump

The average adult heart is about the size of a clenched fist and weighs about 11 ounces. This hollow, muscular organ is in charge of pumping blood throughout the entire body and to all organs and cells which it does amazingly under a minute.  Over the course of a day, this fist-sized muscle will take a beat 100,000 times as it moves 2,000 gallons of oxygen-rich blood many times through about 60,000 miles (yes, miles) of branching blood vessels linking together the cells of your organs and body parts.

Your heart loves it when you laugh

Go ahead and laugh out loud.  A hearty laugh – the kind of making you laugh until you cry – does more than warm the soul.  Research has shown a good laugh relaxes the lining of blood vessels called the endothelium while increasing blood flow for up to 45 minutes after you’ve stopped smiling.

Laughing also helps diminish symptoms of stress, anxiety, anger, and depression, all of which increase your chance of developing heart disease.  Keep the laughter up as research also suggests it can reduce inflammation and increase your good cholesterol.

Big hearts are not necessarily healthy hearts

It can be good to have a “big heart” in terms of being loving and generous.  But to literally have a big heart may not be such a good thing as an enlarged heart may be signaling heart disease.  The most common type, called dilated cardiomyopathy, occurs when the heart’s chambers stretch out and enlarge.  The bulging saps the heart’s pump power, depriving the body’s organs of enough blood and if left untreated, can lead to heart failure.

Heart attack warning signs/symptoms are different in men and women

 Men and women are not created equal when it comes to symptoms and signs of a heart attack.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Men are at a high risk of developing heart disease that leads to narrowed blood vessels that contribute to a heart attack. Risk factors for heart disease in men include a diet high in saturated fat, alcohol abuse or excessive drinking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

The most common symptoms of a heart attack in men include:

  • Chest discomfort – usually in the center of the chest, lasting for a few minutes, and that goes away and comes back. It may also feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Discomfort or tingling in arms, back, neck, shoulder, or jaw
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or feeling lightheaded

Heart disease in women is different than in men.  Women with heart disease may have different symptoms than men when having a heart attack and tend to have heart attacks later in life.

The most common symptoms of a heart attack in women include:

  • Chest discomfort – usually in the center of the chest, lasting for a few minutes, and that goes away and comes back. It may also feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Other symptoms may include breaking out in a sweat, nausea/vomiting, or feeling lightheaded, palpitations, sleep disturbances, and unexplained fatigue.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, man or woman, don’t wait to get help. Although some heart attacks are sudden and intense, most start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body and call 911.

6 fascinating facts about your heart
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Dr. David Samadi

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Dr. David Samadi