February is American Heart Month—in recognition, we wanted to share with you some facts about our favorite muscle.
Hearts by the numbers
The average person has a resting heart rate of between 60 and 100 beats per minute. That means that over the course of the day, your heart will have beat between 86,000 and 144,000 times. Over the course of a year, that’s well over 30 and 50 million individual beats. That’s a lot of work over the course of the year!
It’s about the size of your fist
You’ve probably heard that the human heart is about the size of a fist, but did you also know that the metaphor scales according to your age and gender? Whether you’re looking at a newborn baby or an adult - balling up the fist is the best way to get an approximate idea of what size a person’s heart is.
Days dangerous to your heart
One of the reasons we celebrate American Heart Month is to raise awareness of heart disease—the number one cause of death in America. Many of these deaths occur as a result of a heart attack and the rate at which these occur seem to follow some interesting patterns.
Mondays appear to be the day of the week when a heart attack is most likely to occur, either as a result of the increased stress of returning to work or a tendency to drink more than usual over the course of the weekend. A group of Swedish researchers found that over the course of the year, the most likely day to have a heart attack is Christmas Eve.
Heart rate and blood pressure drops when you sleep
Our heart has a daily rhythm that aligns with our sleep cycle. Over the course of the night, our heart rate can drop to as low as 40 beats per minute as we sleep. This rhythm is important for our hearts, as studies have shown that individuals who have trouble sleeping are more susceptible to issues that can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.
The first open heart surgery occurred over 100 years ago
In 1893, the first open heart surgery was successfully completed by Daniel Hale William, an African-American surgeon practicing at Provident Hospital and Training School Association in Chicago—the nation’s first interracial hospital and one that he founded only two years prior. A man came into his care who had been stabbed in the heart. Lacking the benefits of x-rays or antibiotics, Dr. William made the extraordinary decision to proceed with an open heart surgery - something that had never been done before. During the operation, he sutured the pericardium - the sac of tissue surrounding the heart - which would lead to the subject walking out of the hospital fully recovered 51 days later, and cementing Dr. William’s place in medical history.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning something new about the fist-sized organ pumping diligently in your chest. We encourage you to challenge your friends on their knowledge of the heart—and to be sure to touch base with a doctor so you can be sure that yours is ticking away happily and healthily.