Let’s talk about our hearts

Often times when a question such as this is asked, one of the first things I always preface my answer with is this..”what is normal for one person may be completely abnormal for another.”  So with that said, let’s tackle the heart today and some of the more common questions related to it.

Heart

Our hearts beat along day in and day out, without any of us so much as noticing it at all.  Our hearts beat upwards of 37 million times per year!!  Often times, the only time we ever “notice” or think about hearts is when something happens.

So is the purpose of our hearts?  What is the make-up?

The following print in bold was pulled directly from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hhw/ 

Your heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood to your body. Your heart is at the center of your circulatory system. This system consists of a network of blood vessels, such as arteries, veins, and capillaries. These blood vessels carry blood to and from all areas of your body.

An electrical system controls your heart and uses electrical signals to contract the heart’s walls. When the walls contract, blood is pumped into your circulatory system. Inlet and outlet valves in your heart chambers ensure that blood flows in the right direction.

Your heart is vital to your health and nearly everything that goes on in your body. Without the heart’s pumping action, blood can’t move throughout your body.

Your blood carries the oxygen and nutrients that your organs need to work well. Blood also carries carbon dioxide (a waste product) to your lungs so you can breathe it out.

A healthy heart supplies your body with the right amount of blood at the rate needed to work well. If disease or injury weakens your heart, your body’s organs won’t receive enough blood to work normally.

Heart Anatomy

What are some of the more common questions that are often asked about our hearts?

What is a normal resting heart rate?

This is very different from one person to the next and is very often dictated by a lot of circumstances.  As a general rule, most adults have a resting heart rate between 60 and 100.  As a general rule, a lower resting heart rate is an indicator of great efficiency and better cardiovascular fitness.  To check your resting heart rate simply take your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by 4.  I would recommend sitting down or laying down for a few minutes before you check your heart rate.  Keep in mind however that there can be and often times are circumstances that can and will change your resting heart rate.  Your activity levels, your current fitness level, air temperature, body position, emotions, body size and some medications.  Remember though if at ANY time you feel like your heart is either beating far to slow or to fast, consult with a medical professional.  If you are an endurance athlete who is in elite physical condition, it is not unheard of for your heart rate to be in the 30’s.

My heart keeps speeding up or slowing down, or I feel it flutter?  Am I having a heart attack?

This is a myth that has been perpetuated for years in movies and on TV.  Almost everyone’s heart rate has a tendency to flutter or skip a beat every now and again.  However,  if the feelings of skipping or flip-flopping are new or frequent, or if the sensation is more of a fluttering, the sensations may suggest the presence of an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia).

Most arrhythmia’s are benign and present no danger, however the only person who can accurately tell you this is a cardiologist or a specialist.  Arrhythmia’s can increase your risk stroke, heart failure and sudden death.

I have a low resting heart rate so my blood pressure must be low as well.  Right?

Sorry, this one is completely untrue.  Your resting heart rate simply signifies how many beats per minute your heart is beating.  Your blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury.  No real correlation here.

So it goes without saying that our hearts are extremely valuable to us and it is important to remain aware of signs of distress.  If you have any questions about symptoms you might be having such as tightness or pressure in your chest and you are not exerting yourself (sometimes even if you are exerting yourself) it is my recommendation to do see your Dr immediately!

 

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