Your heart is an amazing organ. It gives life to every cell of the body by feeding it with oxygenated and nutrition-rich blood. This fist-sized powerhouse pumps five or six quarts of blood each minute, or about 2,000 gallons per day, as well as beating about 100,000 times daily – or over 2.5 billion times in an average lifetime – without ceasing.
By some calculations, a healthy heart can produce enough energy in an hour to lift a one-ton car off the ground to a height of 41 feet each day. That’s pretty strong, but what happens if your heart isn’t healthy? A damaged heart doesn’t work very well, perhaps leaving your body starved for oxygen. Even worse, if your arteries are damaged and your heart doesn’t get enough blood, you may have trouble lifting your own body out of bed, much less lifting a car off the ground.
Types Of Diseases
The heart is susceptible to many diseases. The most common is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). Many people have cholesterol plaques lining and narrowing the inside of their arteries, which is known as artherosclerosis. These plaques reduce the amount of oxygen-carrying blood that can flow in a given period of time. Artherosclerosis does not provide advance symptoms. If the narrowing reaches an advanced stage, it may result in a sudden coronary event such as cardiac arrest. This means that the heart has stopped beating.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is another common disease of the heart. This occurs when the pumping action of the heart becomes inefficient, and can be caused by the muscle being weakened by disease, mechanical fault in the valves that control the flow of blood, or high blood pressure. Heart failure does not mean that your heart stops beating, it means that it’s not working efficiently. Depending on how badly the heart is affected, symptoms could include shortness of breath, chest pain, and swollen ankles. Untreated heart failure imposes a strain on your entire system which can be fatal.
It is the electrical system of the heart that makes its beating possible. There are also diseases related to the electrical impulses of the heart, such as ectopic heartbeats. Ectopic heartbeats are early beats in an otherwise steady beat. This can mean your heart skipping a beat or adding an extra beat. At other times the SA node (which is the pacemaker) of the heart can stop working or work poorly.
Ultimately, the most-feared heart disease is the “heart attack,” or as professionally called, an acute myocardial infarction (AMI). This is where the coronary arteries have narrowed so much that part of the heart muscle dies. This is usually due to CAD, but can be caused by blood clots or drug use.
So even though the heart is ticking, it can also become the “bomb” which dramatically changes our life. The good news: You have a lot of control over how healthy your heart is. What you do, what you eat and how you live can actually change how your heart works. It’s amazing if you think about it — you actually have the power to make your heart stronger with just a few changes in your lifestyle. That’s a tremendous power to have, but are you taking advantage of it? Remember, besides your brain, the heart is one of the two most important organs in your body. Take care of it and it will last a lifetime.