Monday, February 08, 2016


Heart smart: Facts about the body's most important muscle

February is National Heart Month, the perfect time to learn about some fascinating and fun facts about our hearts.

• The average heart beats 70 times per minute, or 100,000 times per day, or 37,000,000 times each year.

• The first heart pacemakers plugged into a wall socket.

• Our heart is a well-coordinated machine. The right side pumps blood into our lungs while the left side pumps it back into the body.

• Modesty prompted the invention of the stethoscope. Before it existed, doctors had to put their ears directly on the patient’s chest to hear the heart. (Source:

• The heart starts beating about four weeks after conception and doesn’t stop until death.

• A woman’s heart generally beats faster than a man’s: about 78 times compared to 70 times per minute for men.

• Prolonged lack of sleep can cause irregular jumping heartbeats called premature ventricular contractions (PVCs).

• The human heart can create enough pressure that it could squirt blood at a distance of 30 feet.

• Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here is a romantic fact: A University of California at Davis study has shown that couples breathe at the same rate and have synchronized heart beats. In the study, couples were connected to heart rate and respiration monitors as they went through several exercises without touching or speaking to each other. The couples' heart and breathing rates tended to be synchronized, indicating that romantically involved couples are linked on a physiological level.

I asked Dr. John Foley, a cardiologist in Hartford HealthCare Medical Group in Norwich, to verify these facts for me, and to add any interesting information he would like us to know. Here is his contribution to the fascinating facts about our hearts:

• Life expectancy in the USA is 78.8 years

• In 2014, we spent $3 trillion on healthcare on healthcare in the United States. Cardiovascular disease is the largest expenditure of Medicare dollars.

• On average, we spend $9,523 per person in the United States on healthcare.

Dr. Foley will be presenting several community education programs about Heart Disease and Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib). For information about the dates and locations of these programs, call 855-HHC-HERE (855-442-4373).

Let’s all make a promise to take care of our hearts starting this February, and work toward a goal of increasing that life expectancy statistic to at least 80 years.

Alice Facente is a community health education nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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