Your body’s most important muscle needs your attention.
Your heart isn’t only your most critical muscle — it’s what keeps you alive, after all — but also one of the hardest working. It ticks 24-7 and except for the times when you’re relaxing or sleeping, it rarely gets a break. Below, find fascinating facts about your heart that might inspire you to give it a little more TLC every day.
1. Your adult heart beats about 100,000 times each day. Do the math, and that’s at least one beat every second, or 60 to 100 times a minute, according to the American Heart Association. For people whose heart rate is closer to 60 beats per minute (bpm), that’s about 86,000 times a day. And it’s 144,000 times a day if your heart rate is closer to 100 bpm.
2. Age and fitness level affect your heart rate. Generally, as children grow or adults get fitter, the heart rate gets slower. See how it changes throughout the decades with this chart from the National Institutes of Health:
- Newborn (0 to 11 months): 70 to 160 bpm
- One to four years: 80 to 120 bpm
- Five to nine years: 75 to 110 bpm
- Children 10 years and up and adults (non-athletes): 60 to 100 bpm
- Adults (athletes): 40 to 60 bpm
3. Heart disease isn’t only the number one killer of men, it’s also the top killer for women. Your heart doesn’t care if you’re from Mars or Venus. “Heart disease is an equal opportunity buzz kill,” says James Beckerman, MD, director of the Center for Prevention and Wellness at the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute in Portland, Oregon, and author of Heart to Start (2015). More women die of heart disease than from most cancers combined, notes Dr. Beckerman.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more than one in three women is living with heart disease. Every minute in this country, one woman dies from heart disease, stroke, or another form of cardiovascular disease.
4. Want to know how big your heart is? Make a fist. Heart size depends on the size of the person as well as the condition of their heart. Generally speaking, a healthy heart is about the size of the person’s fist.
That’s only a healthy heart, though. “Hearts can enlarge in response to certain conditions,” says Kathryn Boling, MD, a family medicine physician with Lutherville Personal Physicians in Lutherville, Maryland. For instance, congestive heart failure can cause the heart to enlarge, explains the American College of Cardiology.
5. Your heart rate drops while you sleep. At night, it’s common for heart rates to drop below 60 bpm. Some people even have rates in the 40s while sleeping. Why? “It’s because your metabolism slows and the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows your heart and relaxes you, is more active,” Boling says.
6. Heart attack symptoms are different in men and women. Although heart disease is an equal opportunity killer, symptoms of heart attack show up differently in men versus women. Whereas men often report crushing chest pain, sweating and nausea, women might instead experience shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen,a nd upper back pressure, notes the AHA.
7. Your activity level is the greatest potential risk factor for heart disease. People with low fitness levels have double the risk of heart disease as their more active counterparts, Beckerman says. The AHA recommends logging at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of the two, every week.
The good news is, “whether you’re on the treadmill, in the weight room, or in a yoga studio, your heart benefits from every type of activity,” he says. And 80 percent of heart disease is preventable with healthy lifestyle choices and management of risk factors, he adds. Other ways to lower heart disease risk include quitting smoking, controlling cholesterol, eating better, managing blood pressure, losing weight, and reducing blood sugar, according to the AHA.
8. Depression increases your risk for a heart attack, especially if you’re a woman. If you’re a woman under 55 with moderate or severe depression, listen up. This group of women are more than twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, die of heart disease, or require an artery-opening procedure, Boling says.
9. Excessive amounts of sitting have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. You may have heard that sitting is the new smoking. Numerous studies show that spending most of the day on your duff has been linked to chronic health conditions, including heart disease.
“When we’re more active, even with smaller movements like when we stand or shift from side to side, our muscles turn on genes that create chemicals and proteins that not only help us process blood sugar and cholesterol more efficiently but also create a healthier atmosphere in the walls of our blood vessels,” Beckerman says. That then leads to a lower heart disease risk, which is why you should stand up and move around at least every hour for a few minutes.
10. Your heart is one giant pump. Every minute, your heart pumps about five quarts of blood through a system of blood vessels that’s over 60,000 miles long, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That translates to about 2,000 gallons of blood every day.