15 Things You Didn't Know About Your Heart

Can you really get sick from a broken heart?. romrf/Shutterstock

Your heart sits there in your chest, diligently pumping oxygen-rich blood to every organ in your body whether you're sleeping, eating or running a marathon. This glob-like muscle is the universal symbol of love, even though it isn't shaped like a Valentine heart at all. Here are some interesting things you may not know about your ticker.

Your heart is very busy.

Every day, your heart beats about 100,000 times, sending 2,000 gallons of blood surging through your body. In an average lifetime, a heart will beat more than 2.5 billion times.

Mondays (and holidays) are the worst day for heart attacks.

Here's yet another reason to dread getting up for work on Monday morning. You’re more likely to have a heart attack on Monday morning than any other day of the week. In related news, the number of heart attacks peaks on Christmas Day, the day after Christmas and New Year's Day, according to a 2004 report in the journal Circulation. One theory is that people often confuse heart attack symptoms with heartburn from too much holiday indulgence and don't head to the ER fast enough. Other studies have speculated that stress, excessive drinking and an increased risk of respiratory infection in winter may also contribute to an increase in heart attacks around the holidays.

Education affects heart disease.

Several studies have shown that the less education you have, the higher your risk of heart disease. Researchers aren't sure what the connection is, but they think it may have to do with factors such as childhood economic circumstances, chronic illness and intelligence, as well as parental mental health.

The largest heart is very large.

blue whale
The blue whale's heart is about the size of a VW Beetle. Kenny Ross14 [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr

The blue whale — the largest animal in the world — also has the largest heart, weighing an impressive 1,500 pounds. The blue whale's heart is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, with the aorta alone large enough for a human being to crawl through.

Your heart isn't where you think it is.

Your heart isn't really on the left side of your chest. It's actually located almost in the middle of your chest between your lungs. The bottom of your heart is tipped slightly to the left, which is why you feel it beating more on that side of your body.

Men's hearts are different than women's.

Many women would argue they are much more big-hearted than their male counterparts but physiologically speaking, that's not the case. A woman's heart is smaller than a man's — about two-thirds the size — and it beats faster. A man's heart beats an average of 70 times a minute, while a woman's beats about 78 times a minute.

You may not know you're having a heart attack.

A woman's heart attack symptoms are nothing like a man's. While men typically have chest pain when a heart attack hits, women are more likely to have nausea, indigestion and shoulder or jaw aches. There are a lot of misconceptions about women and heart disease, as many people think it's more of a male disease. But approximately one woman dies every minute from heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Heart disease is actually the No. 1 killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year, and is more deadly than all types of cancer combined.

Modesty invented the stethoscope.

old photo of doctor using stethoscope on female patient
Before the stethoscope, doctors would press their ears to a patient's chest to listen to the heart. Seattle Municipal Archives [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr

Before the invention of the stethoscope, doctors had to press their ears to a patient's chest to hear what was going on with the heart. In the early 1800s, French physician Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laënnec came up with a better solution. He was faced with examining a young woman and was embarrassed to put his ear to her chest because of the patient's "age, sex and plumpness." He remembered seeing children scratching on a long piece of wood to amplify sound. The stethoscope was born — and his modesty stayed intact.

Fried food may not be that bad for your heart.

A large study published in the British Medical Journal found no link between an increased risk of heart disease and eating fried foods. The only huge caveat, as The Huffington Post points out, is that the study was conducted in Spain where the Mediterranean diet is the rule and everyone fries foods in olive or sunflower oils. In the U.S., where we often fry with butter, shortening, lard and oils higher in trans fats, a similar study might not have created the same results.

Your heart can live outside your body.

The heart has its own electrical impulses and doesn't depend on your body's nervous system to function. So if all the nerves going into the heart were cut, it would continue to beat, even if separated from the body — as long as it had enough oxygen.

Twitter can predict heart health.

Who needs fancy cardio tests to tell if your heart is healthy? New research says the key to assessing heart disease might be in your Twitter feed. A study published in the journal Psychological Science found that negative tweets are linked to higher levels of heart disease in the countries where those people who tweeted lived. Conversely, positive, optimistic tweets were linked to lower than average rates of heart disease.

Someone or something really can almost 'break your heart.'

sad woman with bike
A broken heart can cause actual pain. michaeljung/Shutterstock

Very stressful situations can cause sudden chest pains that feel like a heart attack. The heart's normal pumping is disrupted temporarily. Also called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy, the condition can be caused by a sudden surge in stress hormones. The symptoms are treatable and usually go away within about a week.

Yoga can help an irregular heartbeat.

Many studies have suggested that yoga can do all sorts of good things for your body. It has been linked to easing stress, lowering cholesterol and reducing high blood pressure. A recent study also found that regularly practicing yoga can cut episodes of irregular heartbeat in half. Irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation, is one of the main causes of stroke.

Laughter is the best (heart) medicine.

Studies have found that laughing and being light-hearted is good for your heart. In one study, watching funny movies boosted healthy blood flow by as much as 22%. The researchers said they were inspired to look into the connection when they found that patients who suffered from heart attacks were less likely than their healthy counterparts to find humor in situations like wearing the same outfit to a party.

The noise comes from valves.

That thump-thump sound your heart makes is the sound of your heart valves opening and closing. We have four valves in our heart that control the flow of blood, keeping it going in the right direction and stopping it from backing up where it's not supposed to go.