You can feel your heart thudding away every time you put your hand to your chest, but do you have any idea what’s really going on in there or what keeps your heart ticking as it should? WebMD the Magazine asked Richard Krasuski, MD, director of Adult Congenital Heart Disease Services and a staff cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, to help explain some amazing and little-known facts about the human heart.
1. How the human heart functions
Every day, your heart beats about 100,000 times, sending 2,000 gallons of blood surging through your body. Although it’s no bigger than your fist, your heart has the mighty job of keeping blood flowing through the 60,000 miles of blood vessels that feed your organs and tissues. Any damage to the heart or its valves can reduce that pumping power, forcing the heart to work harder just to keep up with the body’s demand for blood.
So how do you make sure your heart is in tip-top shape? "Keeping your body in good health helps keep the heart a more efficient organ," Krasuski advises. In other words, eat healthy, well-balanced meals and don’t skimp on the exercise.
2. Male heart attack symptoms, female heart attack symptoms
When it comes to matters of the heart, men and women definitely aren’t created equal. For instance, a man’s heart weighs about 10 ounces, while a woman’s heart weighs approximately 8 ounces.
Not only is a woman’s heart smaller than a man’s, but the signs that it’s in trouble are a lot less obvious. When women have a heart attack -- and more than a half million do each year -- they’re more likely to have nausea, indigestion, and shoulder aches rather than the hallmark chest pain.
Heart disease is the biggest killer of both men and women. And both genders should heed this healthy advice: Don’t smoke, keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check, and watch for the obvious and the more subtle warning signs your heart could be in trouble.
3. Laughter: The good heart medicine
Health experts now have proof that laughter is good medicine.
A good belly laugh can send 20% more blood flowing through your entire body. One study found that when people watched a funny movie, their blood flow increased. That’s why laughter might just be the perfect antidote to stress.
When you laugh, the lining of your blood vessel walls relaxes and expands, Krasuski says. So have a good giggle. Your heart will thank you.
4. Stress and the Monday morning heart attack
You’re more likely to have a heart attack on Monday morning than at any other time of the week.