Did you know that, on average, your heart pumps more than 2.5 billion times in a lifetime without resting? Weighing approximately 300 g, your heart circulates 4.3 litres of blood all around your body every minute via 96,000 kilometres of pipeline made up of arteries, veins and capillaries. Hard to believe? Yes, it’s true – that pipeline would circle the Earth twice! The circulated blood is enriched with oxygen and nutrients that help nourish your thousands of billions of cells.
What exactly is a heart attack? The medical term for a heart attack is myocardial infarction, which indicates that some of the cells in the heart muscle (myocardium) have died because of a lack of blood supply (infarction). Under the age of 50, women’s heart attacks are twice as likely as men’s to be fatal.
Heart disease is more than one condition. The term cardiovascular disease is more descriptive: it covers any problem that affects the heart, veins and arteries anywhere in the body. The World Health Organization reports that, in 2008, more than 17.3 million people died from cardiovascular disease worldwide.
Both heart disease and stroke – think of stroke as a heart attack in your head – occur because of blockages and damage to the arteries in the heart throughout the body. What do you think happens if one or more of those arteries is blocked or clogged – especially the ones nearest your heart? Think highway accident. ‘Traffic’ either trickles by or is stopped altogether. This can lead to a serious pile-up.
Some heart problems are genetic, but most heart disease is caused by just a few lifestyle factors, including eating a diet high in fat and low in fruit and vegetables, smoking, being overweight or obese and not exercising regularly.
- Learn about the ways a healthy heart works.
- Look at the incidence of heart disease in your family. You may have a genetic predisposition for anything from high cholesterol to high blood pressure.
- Read about the various kinds of heart disease. It’s not just one simple condition.
- Accept the role you play in maintaining heart health through your lifestyle habits.
- Discuss questions you have about heart health with your doctor.