Since Valentine’s Day falls this week, I thought the heart seemed like a good theme for this week’s Health Tip. Here are a few interesting items about your heart that you might not know.
How big is your heart?
Throughout your lifetime, your heart is about the same size as your fist. It grows at about the same rate as your fist grows.
How long does it take for blood to get around the body and back to the heart?
About once every minute and a half your blood makes a complete round trip through your body. That is about 1,000 times every day.
When was the first heart surgery performed?
In 1893, a prominent African American surgeon named Daniel Hale Williams performed the first cardiac surgical procedure in the US when he successfully repaired a tear of the outer layer of the heart.
Is chocolate good for your heart?
The answer is that chocolate can be both beneficial and harmful. Consuming chocolate in moderate amounts has been shown to be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, consuming chocolate in higher amounts actually cancels out the benefits, and then some, as a result of the higher sugar consumption. Dark chocolate does contain less sugar, so you can eat a little more dark chocolate than milk chocolate. Chocolate also contains a small amount of a cardiac stimulant, so for some patients, chocolate has been linked to a type of arrhythmia of the heart.
Is there a link between your heart rate and how long you will live?
There is actually abundant evidence that in all warm-blooded mammals, including humans, there is a link between heart rate and longevity. The higher your resting heart rate, the lower your life expectancy. Resting heart rate is most likely a result of both genetic factors and your lifestyle. Regular exercise for instance, typically causes your resting heart rate to decrease.
Can you really die from a broken heart?
There is a type of cardiomyopathy, Takotsubo syndrome, which is also called “stress cardiomyopathy” or “broken heart syndrome.” This cardiomyopathy is a result of severe emotional or physical stress. Severe stress causes elevation of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the blood which significantly increase the level of inflammation in the body. Individuals who experience profound grief as a result of the loss of a spouse can have levels of inflammation high enough to cause heart damage.
What is Holiday Heart Syndrome?
Holiday heart syndrome is an acute disturbance of the heart’s rhythm which is linked to excess alcohol consumption. People often consume excess alcohol around certain holidays, leading to increased arrhythmias during or shortly after a holiday. Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia seen. The most common holidays associated with this condition are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. It does not appear to be linked to Valentine’s Day.
Does laughter benefit your heart?
It is true that laughter is good for your heart. A hearty laugh can prompt blood vessels to expand then contract, which can increase your blood flow by up to 20%. That can promote healthy blood vessels, which can help to ward off cardiovascular disease. Laughter also helps to relax the whole body and trigger the release of endorphins. It can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormone levels, and improve immune function. Sustained laughter is actually a good cardio workout. It gets your heart pumping and burns about as many calories per hour as walking at a slow to moderate pace. Laughter may really be the best medicine!
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Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor