The human heart is an organ that pumps blood throughout the body via the circulatory system, supplying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removing carbon dioxide and other wastes.
- The all-important heart is constantly at work, pumping blood (about 2,000 gallons a day) filled with essential oxygen and nutrients to your body’s organs 24/7. Everything about the heart and how it works is interesting, but here are some nuggets of information we found particularly fascinating.
Does this blow your mind because you’ve always been told it’s on the left? When we place our hands over our hearts to pledge allegiance, we actually go a tad 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, 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 situs inversus (when visceral organs like the liver and spleen are reversed too) can live normal lives without any disability.
In many cases, though, dextrocardia is associated with other heart defects or other misplaced, and even missing, organs that might require surgery to correct.
This is a ballpark figure. According to Mayo Clinic, a healthy adult heart should beat anywhere from 60 to 100 times a minute while at rest. Do the math, and it 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 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 rate (called tachycardia) or a below-normal heart rate (bradycardia) 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 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 percent increased risk of dying from heart disease compared to those whose heart rates stayed around 70 beats per minute.
In the literal sense, an enlarged heart is a symptom of heart disease. For an adult, a normal heart is about the size of your fist.
An enlarged heart, termed cardiomegaly, can occur for a number of reasons, some temporary (stress on the body or pregnancy) and some tied to 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, and blood clots, depending on the part of the heart enlarged.
Mondays get a bad rap — Manic Mondays, Monday blues, 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.
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 percent), so it can pump more blood in a single beat.
But having a quicker heart beat doesn’t equal quicker finishing times for runners. Because men’s hearts can pump more blood, on average, they tend to run faster than women.
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. That doesn’t mean you should stop saying “bless you” or “gesundheit” after a sneeze, though. It’s only polite!
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.
Sure it’s the largest artery in the body, running from the heart to the abdomen, but the thickness of a garden hose? That’s pretty big, and a weird thing to visualize.
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 when a baby is a newborn) that can make it difficult for blood to pass through. Doctors have to perform surgery to remove the narrowed part or open it to correct the problem.