...we at Body Blueprint would like to put some emphasis on the heart. No, I don’t mean the symbolic love heart that you draw in the sand or send in a card or a text message. I mean your actual physical beating heart. Pumping blood throughout your body every second of everyday, 365 days a year. Valentine’s Day is for giving and for showering your loved ones with chocolate and flowers. But do we ever stop to think about their hearts? What about your heart? So, let’s talk about it…
The heart is fascinating. This important organ - which is also a muscle - is made up tissue called “cardiac muscle tissue” and beats about 115,000 times a day, weighs less than one pound and is about the size of your fist. A man’s heart weighs slightly more than a woman’s and beats a little slower. If you stretched your blood vessels end on end, they would be approximately 97,000 kilometers (60,000 miles) long. That means your body’s blood vessels could go around the world almost 3 times.
The heart is the body’s only circulatory system made up of two atrium, (the top chambers), two ventricles (the bottom chambers), several valves that prevent back flow and various arteries and veins. The heart functions to keep oxygenated blood flowing to all the cells in your body.
The heart has an all-or-nothing contraction principle, unlike muscle tissue where you can contract some or all of the muscle fibres. Think about picking up a feather and then picking up a 20-pound weight. The brain adjusts the amount of muscle fibres in the arm, depending on what is being picked up. All-or-nothing means that when the heart is sent stimuli from nerves, all the muscle fibres in that chamber of the heart completely contract. Then, without stimulation, it completely relaxes (allowing it to fill up again with blood from the body). The heart’s rhythm is controlled by the cardiac conduction system, which is a group of specialized cardiac muscle cells in the walls of the heart that cause the heart muscle to contract.
Like all muscles in your body, the heart needs to be kept strong. A healthy diet and cardiovascular (aerobic and anaerobic) exercise, not smoking and staying away from artery clogging fatty foods keeps the heart strong and healthy.
It’s important to strength train to keep the muscles and joints in the body strong, but doing cardiovascular exercises makes the heart muscle stronger. This means you will have a greater cardiac output. The stronger the heart muscle, the more blood is pumped per beat. Your heart pumps about 7570 litres (or 2000 gallons) of blood a day. This means a strong heart can spend more time resting than a heart that hasn’t been challenged and grown strong.
The first open heart surgery was done in the united states by Dr. Daniel Williams in 1893. Did you know the heart can continue beating for a short time outside of the body? Dr. Stern, a cardiac surgeon in Victoria, B.C. said, “If you are going to have a problem with an organ, let it be the heart as we know everything about it”. Dr. Stern, along with an Italian doctor, invented the surgery to fix the heart’s rhythm without having to perform open heart surgery. Instruments are inserted through arteries in the arm or the leg instead. And instead of weeks to recover from having your chest cracked open, the patient is often home by dinner time.
The youngest person to ever receive heart surgery was only one minute old. She survived the surgery and when she is strong enough, will receive a heart transplant.
Don’t you think we oughtta give our hearts more credit? Why do the love hearts get all the attention? Actually, the typical heart shape we see on Valentine’s day cards that we have come to know as a symbol of love, is thought to come from the silphium plant, which was used in ancient times as birth control. Another theory is that it originated from matching the shapes of the human body such as the breasts or buttocks.
So, this Valentine’s Day, while you’re drawing love hearts on cards or sending hundreds of heart emojis, check in with your beating heart. Give it some love. Having a good laugh with friends and family boosts your immune system and studies have shown that laughing is good for your heart. Find ways to reduce stress, fuel your body with goodness, and give credit to the muscle that never misses a beat ☺.
From the Staff at Body Blueprint Fitness Education