If your heart could speak, this is what it would say…
I am approximately 340 grams in weight. Generally, I am supposed to be the size of your clenched fist…and no bigger. Because, in my case, bigger is NOT better. It’s much worse! I am sort of reddish-brown in colour; my shape – though nondescript – has been romanticized over millennia, on walls, trees, letters and Hallmark cards! I am around 15 centimetres long, 10 centimetres at my widest point and more pear shaped than valentine.
And my sole purpose in life is to keep you alive and kicking, active and in good shape.
Let me tell you a bit about myself…
Where can you find me and what’s my job?
I hang by ligaments in the centre of your chest. And, while the poets have sung paeans of praise to my qualities of love, caring and compassion, I am just a very hardworking individual. In, reality, I am a pump with four chambers, that moves blood in and out of your lungs and through your body. If you take an average of 80 beats per minute, I pump blood about 4,800 times per hour. That's 115,200 times per day, that makes it 42,048,000 times over a year. If you live to be 80 years old, I would have kept your blood flowing around your body approximately 3,363,840,000 times! Imagine that! Every day I pump blood through about 96,000 kilometres of blood vessels – enough to fill an 18,000-litre tank.
The strange thing is, that you consider me to be a fragile and delicate organ. Me, delicate? That’s a joke! I have pumped more than 300,000 tons of your blood. I work twice as hard as the arm muscles of a heavy weight boxer. Or the leg muscles of a sprinter. If they try and match my pace, they would turn to jelly in minutes!
But I must admit, that I do rest between beats. For instance, when you are asleep, a large percentage of your blood vessels are inactive so my normal beat slows from 72 to 55 beats per minute.
Occasionally, my ignition system gets out of whack. Just like the ignition in your car or two-wheeler. I generate my own electricity, you see. And send out impulses to trigger the contractions needed to pump out the blood. But, once in a while, I might misfire. It feels like I have skipped a beat but I really haven’t. You worry about this. Don’t. This happens more often than you are aware of.
Situations you shouldn’t blame me for!
Such as fatigue and dizzy spells! But, I am really not to blame for you feeling tired. That’s probably you over doing things. And if you are feeling dizzy, please go and have your ears checked! I know that sometimes you get a sharp pain in your chest. That is NOT me acting up. That’s probably from your digestive tract: you are paying the price for having indulged in a heavy meal before going to bed! When I am causing the trouble, you should heed the pain signals I send out after undue exertion or stress. Basically, what I am trying to tell you is that you are not giving me enough nourishment for the extra work you are giving me.
So, how do I get my nourishment? From your blood, of course. Though I represent only two-hundredth part of your body weight, I need about one-twentieth of your blood-supply. That means I consume about 10 times the nourishment needed by your other organs and tissues. I am fed by my own two coronary arteries – little branching ‘trees” with “trunks” about as thick as drinking straws. And, that’s where my problems arise. These are my weak spots! Trouble in these arteries will be the likeliest cause of your death. Sad but true.
No one knows how it happens, or even when it happens. Early in life, sometimes even at birth, fatty deposits start to build up in my coronary arteries. Over time, these deposits can close down one of these vital path ways to your pumping station (that’s me!) or cause a clot to form, blocking it suddenly and completely. Then I am in real trouble and so are you.
When one of my arteries gets blocked, the portion of the muscle that it feeds, will die. This leaves some amount of scar tissue. How serious this trouble is will depend on the size and position of the blocked artery.
Please pay attention to what I am saying.
Your family has a history of heart disease. Statistically speaking, I could give you a lot of trouble. You, naturally, can’t do anything about genetics or heredity. But you can do a lot to minimise the risks. Here are a few things you should do…
I strongly advise you to lose weight. Every kilo of excess fat contains some 700 kms of capillaries through which I must push your blood. This is I addition to the work of supporting each extra kilo!
Lower your blood pressure. The higher the lower figure of your BP is, the less rest I get. Without adequate rest, I will simply be worked to death. That will spell finis for you. You can do a lot to get your BP down.
- Get rid of excess weight. You will be surprised at the drop in your BP!
- Quit smoking. You smoke a pack a day! This is bad: Your arteries get constricted – especially in your hands and feet. Up goes your pressure, which I must fight against to do my work properly. This also stimulates me, so I beat faster as does your pulse. Just one cigarette increases my beat from a normal 72 to the 80s! If you could get rid of the constant nicotine stimulation, you would make my job much easier.
- Stress: There are other ways for you to help me. Since you are extremely competitive, ambitious and successful, you are constantly stressed. What you don’t realise is that this stress stimulates your adrenal glands – this has the same effect as nicotine: tighter arteries, higher BP, faster pace of work for me! Simply put, if you relax, I also relax. An occasional nap is a great idea. Some light reading will also help instead of reading official documents at home.
- Exercise: You are one of those people who try to do an entire week’s exercise over a weekend. Don’t. When you do this, my normal work load is increased five times!
So, please, please listen to me. After all, I am speaking from your heart! And for your heart. Understand the job I do, appreciate the wear and tear I go through – and please make my life a little easier while making it safer and healthier for yourself.