Maintaining a Happy and Healthy Heart

We all know how important the heart is to our body. Once it stops working, then poof! So do we. Not to sound morbid or anything, but without our hearts, we die. That’s it. End of story. In order to enjoy the life we’re given, we have to make sure to keep a happy and healthy heart.

Healthy Heart Matters

So what exactly is the heart? It is an organ that is in charge of pumping blood throughout the entire body. This is done through the circulatory system. It pumps about 6 quarts of blood through your entire body. That’s around 5.7 liters. This process supplies oxygen and essential nutrients to the tissues. This also removes carbon dioxide and other wastes from our bodies.

In humans, the heart is roughly the size of a large clenched fist. It weighs between 10 to 12 ounces in men. In women, it’s 8 to 10 ounces.

The human heart has four chambers. There are two upper chambers called the atria, and two lower chambers called the ventricles.

The right atrium and the right ventricle together make up the right heart. Likewise, the left atrium and the left ventricle make up the left heart. The septum, which is a wall made of muscle, separates the two sides.

The pericardium encloses the heart. It is a double-walled sac that serves as the heart’s protection and anchors it inside the chest. There is also pericardial fluid. This lubricates the heart during contractions and during movements of the diaphragm and the lungs.

The heart beats about 100,000 times in a day. That’s about 3 billion beats in a lifetime. Adults’ hearts beat around 60 to 80 beats per minute. Newborns’ hearts beat faster, at 70 to 190 beats per minute.   

How a Healthy Heart Functions

So how does a relatively small organ pump blood for the entire body? Well, a healthy heart circulates blood through two pathways. There’s the pulmonary circuit, and there’s the systemic circuit.

In the first one, the pulmonary circuit, deoxygenated blood leaves the right ventricle of the heart through the pulmonary artery. The blood then travels to the lungs. It returns as oxygenated blood to the left atrium via the pulmonary vein.

With regard to the systemic circuit, the oxygenated blood leaves the heart through the left ventricle and to the aorta. It then enters the capillaries and arteries and supplies the body’s tissues with oxygen. Deoxygenated blood returns through the venae cavae and reenters the heart’s right atrium.

As the heart is also a muscle, it needs nutrients and oxygen as well. Two sets of arteries bring oxygenated blood to the heart. The left main coronary artery branches into the left anterior descending artery as well as the circumflex artery. The right coronary artery branches out on the right side of the aorta.

Heart Troubles

There are numerous heart issues. In order to know what we’re up against, let’s get to know what the most prevalent ones are.

Heart Attacks

These happen when the supply of blood to the heart is stopped. They are also called myocardial infarction. They can lead to cardiac arrests.

Cardiac Arrest

A sudden loss of heart function. This usually occurs as a result of electrical disturbances of the heart rhythm.

Aneurysm

This is a bulge or weakness in the wall of a blood vessel. They can enlarge over time, and if they rupture, they can be life-threatening. The most common sites include the abdominal aorta and the arteries at the base of the brain.

High Blood Pressure

This is the excessive force of blood pumping through the blood vessels.

Atherosclerosis

The walls of the arteries become thick and stiff due to the buildup of fatty deposits. These deposits are plaques. In this, the flow of blood is restricted. In the arteries of the heart, this is coronary artery disease.

Strokes

These occur when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. This happens when a blood vessel in the brain or neck is either blocked or bursts. Your brain is then deprived of oxygen, and parts of the brain may be permanently damaged.

Keeping a Healthy Heart

Prevention is always better than cure. No matter how old you are, these suggestions to incorporate into your daily life will ensure you maintain a happy and healthy heart.

Have a Healthy Eating Plan

The food you eat is one of the most important factors in having a healthy heart. Make sure to incorporate food low in sodium, trans fat, and saturated fat. Of course, fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, and legumes are highly encouraged. Choose low-fat dairy products and poultry. Limit the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and red meat. However, of you just have to have a bit of red meat, make sure to pick the leanest cuts.

Be Physically Active

Even the smallest bit of movement can go a long way. For example, take the stairs instead of taking the elevator. It’s a great way to keep your heart pumping. You can also do two and a half hours of moderate-intensity activities twice a week. A good example is brisk walking. Then eventually, you can move up to even more intense workouts, like jogging, running, or Zumba.

Mind-body exercises are a great help as well. They not only get your blood pumping and promote a healthy heart, but they boost your brain health too.

Get a Primary Physician

Find a good doctor that you like and understands you and your body’s needs, and make sure to establish a strong and healthy relationship with him or her. You can also get heart-health screenings as soon as possible. Have regular checkups of your blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, blood sugar, and body mass index. This ensures a healthy heart.

No to Smoking

Do you smoke? If yes, quit as early as now. Even the exposure to secondhand smoke has debilitating effects on your health.

Know Your Family History

There are some heart conditions that could be because of genetics. If you have a relative with heart disease, that increases your risk in possibly getting one too. Most especially if the relative is a parent or a sibling. If you do have a family history of heart disease, make sure to talk to your doctor about possible protection.

Learn to Control Stress

True, everyone has their stresses in life. But the way you deal with them is the breaking point. Long-term stress increases the heart rate and blood pressure, and these may damage artery walls.

Try out stress management techniques, like breathing exercises, massages, yoga, etc. They not only benefit your body, but your mind as well.

Know the Warning Signs

If the center of your chest feels uncomfortable in any way, this could be a heart attack. You may feel an uncomfortable squeezing, pressure, pain, or fullness. It can last for more than a few minutes, goes away, and comes back. Other symptoms are shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea, breaking out in a cold sweat, and discomfort in the upper body, including your arms, back, neck, or stomach.

Recognizing a stroke is quite easy. If one side of the face droops or feels numb, this is a sign. Or if one arm is weak or numb, that’s another sign. And finally, another sign is if they’re having difficulty in speaking. For example, their speech is slurred, if they’re unable to talk, or if they are hard to understand.

Kate B. Forsyth is a writer for Be Healthy Today, who specializes in health and nutrition. Her passion is to help people get an overall transformation of health that lasts a lifetime. In her blog posts, she goes beyond research by providing health-concerned citizens doable and simple tricks to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

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