In Breaking News, Columnists, Health, National News, Opinion
Dr. Osim E.E.
Dr. Osim E.E.

Welcome to HealthTALK, one of the many new features CrossRiverWatch is creating just for YOU – because we don’t just inform our audience, we also educate.

In this first episode, we are going straight into the “heart of the matter” – the HEART! Today’s Theme: What’s in a Heartbeat? It’s very informative. Sit back, Relax, Read.

What’s in a Heartbeat?

Before we “go into the matter”, the following are facts YOU should to reflect on. Facts that can help you make informed decisions and choices.



[17.3 million] – An estimated 17.3 million people died from Cardio Vascular Diseases, CVDs in 2008.

[80%] – Over 80% of CVD deaths take place in low- and middle-income countries.

[23.3 million] —By 2030 more than 23 million people will die annually from CVDs.

Source: World Health Organization (WHO)


Now On The Matter”

Your heart is at the hub of your circulatory system and is an exceptionally hard worker. If you are an adult, your heart likely beats over 100,000 times a day. Even when you are at rest, your heart muscles work hard—twice as hard, in fact, as your leg muscles do when you sprint. And when necessary, your heart can double its pace within five seconds. In adults, cardiac output varies from 5 liters [10 pints] a minute—5 liters being the approximate amount of blood in the body—to as much as 20 liters a minute during exercise.

Your heartbeat is controlled by what has rightly been called a stunningly designed nervous system. This system ensures that the heart’s upper chambers (atria) contract before its lower chambers (ventricles) by delaying the contraction of the latter by a fraction of a second. Interestingly, the lub-dup sound that doctors hear through their stethoscope emanates from closing heart valves, not from pulsating heart muscles.



As a general rule, an animal’s heart rate varies inversely with its body size—that is, the bigger the animal, the slower the heart rate. For instance, an elephant’s heart beats, on average, 25 times a minute, while that of a canary virtually buzzes at about 1,000 beats a minute! In humans the rate slows from about 130 beats a minute at birth to 70 or so in adulthood.

Most mammals appear to have a life expectancy of roughly a billion heartbeats. Therefore, a mouse, with 550 heartbeats a minute, may live close to 3 years; whereas a blue whale, with roughly 20 beats a minute, may live more than 50 years. Humans are an exception. Judged by our heart rate, our life span ought to be about 20 years. A healthy human heart, however, may beat three billion times or more and thus live in excess of 70 or 80 years!

[Footnote: The figures are approximations. Both the heart rate and the life span of individual creatures may vary considerably from the average].



Key messages to protect heart health

1. Tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
2. Engaging in physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day of the week will help to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
3. Eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, and limiting your salt intake to less than one teaspoon a day, also helps to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

So by definition, the heart is a muscular organ in both humans and other animals, located in the middle compartment of the mediastinum in the chest, which pumps blood through the blood vessels of the circulatory system. Blood provides the body with oxygen and nutrients, and also assists in the removal of metabolic wastes.

Being such a complex organ the heart is prone to several cardiovascular diseases some becoming more prevalent with ageing. Heart disease is a major cause of death, accounting for an average of 30% of all deaths in 2008, globally. This rate varies from a lower 28% to a high 40% in high-income countries.

Of these deaths more than three quarters were due to coronary artery disease and stroke. Risk factors include: smoking, being overweight, not enough exercise, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and poorly controlled diabetes among others. Diagnosis of CVD is often done by listening to the heart-sounds with a stethoscope, ECG or by ultrasound. Diseases of the heart are primarily treated by cardiologists, although many specialties of medicine may be involved.

So keep your heart beating and beating right. Stay healthy. Keep close to heart the aforementioned key messages to protecting your hearth.

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