Everything about the heart and how it works is interesting, but here are 10 fast and fun facts about the human heart you may not know or may need to understand better.
This may blow your mind because you’ve always been told it’s on the left…But when we place our hands over our hearts to pledge allegiance, we actually go a bit too far to the left.
➡ The heart is located in the middle of the chest, snuggled between the lungs.
A small percentage of people are born with dextrocardia (read about it here), a condition in which the heart points more toward the right side of the chest than the left.
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, people who have dextrocardia with their visceral organs like the liver and spleen also being reversed, (called “situs inversus”) can live normal lives without any disability.
➡ However, in many cases, dextrocardia is associated with other heart defects or other misplaced and even missing, organs which may require surgery to correct.
A healthy adult heart should beat anywhere from 60 to 100 times a minute while at rest.
If you do the math, that adds up to around 100,000 beats a day and 2.5 billion beats in the average lifetime.
…That’s a lot of pumping.
➡ Newborns have the fastest heartbeats, at 70 to 190 (yes, 190) beats per minute, and the hearts of well-trained athletes tend to beat slower, at a rate of 40 to 60 beats per minute.
➡ Faster-than-normal resting heart rates (called tachycardia) or below-normal heart rates (called bradycardia), excluding those mentioned above, could be signs of heart problems.
It’s important to watch your normal heart rate over time, too. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the following:
➡ People whose resting heart rates increased from under 70 beats per minute to more than 85 beats per minute over 10 years had a 90% increased risk of dying from heart disease compared to those whose heart rates stayed around 70 beats per minute.
4. Having a Big Heart Isn’t Always A Good Thing
In the literal sense, an enlarged heart (called Cardiomegaly) is a symptom of heart disease.
For an adult, a normal heart is about the size of your fist.
➡ An enlarged heart can occur for a number of reasons, some temporary (stress on the body or pregnancy) and some tied to a heart condition (weak heart muscle, coronary artery disease, heart valve problems, or abnormal heart rhythms).
Complications of cardiomegaly include:
- Cardiac arrest and sudden death (commonly seen in athletes)
- Heart failure
- Heart murmurs
- Blood clots, depending on the part of the heart enlarged.
“Therapeutic Hypothermia” is actually a form of treatment for cardiac arrest.
➡ According to the American Heart Association guidelines for inducing hypothermia, doctors cool a patient’s body to 91 degrees F, 7 degrees below average, in order to slow damage to the brain and other organs that begin when the heart stops and restarts.
➡ Research published in the Annals of Neurology in late 2010 found that two-thirds of patients who received the therapy after revival from cardiac arrest recovered and went home with good heart function.
Mondays usually get a bad rap — “Manic Mondays,” “The Monday Blues,” “A bad case of the Mondays…” but where heart health is concerned, maybe it’s deserved.
➡ Research has shown that more heart attacks occur on Mondays than any other day of the week.
One 2005 study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that the incidence of heart attack was 20 percent higher in men and 15 percent higher in women on Mondays.
➡ Some experts theorize that the spike has to do with the stress of returning to work after a relaxing weekend, while others correlate Monday heart attacks with the effects of boozy Saturday nights. 🙂
Other popular heart attack days: Christmas, the day after Christmas, and New Year’s.
- This one may seem strange, but studies have shown that, compared to men with full heads of hair, men with crown hair loss have an increased risk of heart disease, about 23 percent higher, and complete hair loss on top of the head brings that number up to 36 percent.
Scientists can’t be sure what causes the link, but it might have something to do with testosterone.
➡ Too much of it interferes with hair growth on the head and also causes hardened arteries. The hair-loss link to heart disease could also be genetic.
There are three different kinds of blood vessels:
➡ Arteries carry blood from the heart to your organs
➡ Veins carry blood from organs and limbs and back to the heart
➡ Capillaries connect the two.
Together, all of the arteries, veins, and capillaries in the body are long enough to go around the world more than twice.
How tall are you? Think about it.
➡ Hardening of those arteries, called atherosclerosis, is the result of cholesterol and fat buildup in the vessels, which causes plaque.
➡ It can lead to coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
➡ A female human heart pumps about six beats faster per minute than a male heart, which can be explained by the gender difference in heart size.
➡ A male heart is bigger (by about 25%), so it can pump more blood in a single beat. (But remember…bigger is not always better!)
But having a quicker heartbeat doesn’t equal quicker finishing times for all runners.
The increased pressure in your chest can affect blood flow to the heart, briefly changing its rhythm, but contrary to common belief, your heart doesn’t skip a beat when you sneeze.
Despite the name, your heart doesn’t stop during heart failure either. It just can’t pump blood as well as it should. The only time the heart stops is during cardiac arrest,
It’s the largest artery in the body, running from the heart to the abdomen…it’s pretty weird to picture something the thickness of a garden hose in your body!
But its size isn’t the only thing that makes the aorta a big deal:
➡ Most aneurysms, or bulges in the wall of an artery, will happen there.
➡ Narrowing (or “coarctation”), of the aorta is a birth defect (doctors normally notice it in newborns) that can make it difficult for blood to pass through.
Surgery needs to be performed to remove the narrowed part or open it to correct the problem.
These are interesting and somewhat mysterious facts about the inside of the human heart, YOUR heart…
Learning everything you can about how it works, is the surest way to save it.