It began its work before you were born, it is working now and it will continue to work until the day you die.
The human heart is the magnificent engine that keeps the whole assembly line going. It takes oxygen-laden blood from the lungs and pumps it throughout the body and takes carbon dioxide-laden blood back from the body and pumps it into the lungs where it is exchanged for more oxygen.
And what have you done for it? Have you tried to lessen its resting workload?
Ironically, the heart works faster and less efficiently when you give it little to do than when you make more demands on it. Both anaerobically and aerobically conditioned men who exercise regularly will have a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute or less. A poorly conditioned man may have resting rate of 80 or more. Women tend to have a slightly lower heart rate than men. Obesity, stress, and many other factors can, of course, speed up your heart rate considerably, even though you may appear to be in great condition.
Just for a moment, suppose that you were at complete test for a full 24 hours. A comparison might go something like this: Well-conditioned person: 60 beats per minute, times 60 minutes, equals 3,600 beats per hour. Times 24 hours, equals 86,400 beats per day. Poorly conditioned person: 80 beats per minute, times 60 minutes, equals 4,800 beats per hour. Times 24 hours, equals 115,200 beats per day.
Image via Wikipedia
So, even at complete rest, a poorly conditioned man who does not exercise his heart forces it to beat nearly 30,000 times more during every day of his life. But no one is at complete rest 24 hours a day, and for ordinary activities, like getting up from a chair, walking across the room, climbing a flight of stairs, the poorly conditioned heart would beat proportionately faster than a well-conditioned heart for the same activity.
So, I ask you again, what have you done for your heart lately? The two factors you must look at in considering your heart health are: (1) the tissue itself and (2) the number of times it beats during rest or exercise.
The Heart Tissue. The heart tissue is all muscle. So, unlike the lungs, the heart does its own work, unquestionably the most important work in the body. The health of its tissue depends on its size and how well it is supplied with blood vessels.
A normal but poorly conditioned heart is relatively small and weak because, like any muscle that is not exercised properly, it wastes away somewhat. An enlarged unhealthy heart usually grows that way to compensate for some deficiency in the cardiovascular system – hypertension or some vascular deformity. Such enlarged hearts, however, are not as efficient as the hearts that grow large through training. Their interior volume, despite their exterior size, is not as large, so they can’t pump as much blood with each stroke.
The athlete’s heart is strong and healthy, relatively large and highly efficient, pumping more blood with each stroke and with less effort. It is resilient. If you could see it, it would be beautiful to watch. Like any great athlete, it does great things with seemingly effortless ease.
Vascularization plays a large role. The heart, for its own energy requirements, needs the same oxygen it is pumping around the body for other muscles, and a healthy heart is characterized by a conspicuously favorable blood supply. In short, its tissue is saturated with healthy blood vessels.
It’s like comparing a lawn with built-in watering jets with one watered with a small garden hose. The hose might water the entire lawn eventually but, during a hot spell, it might take too long and some of the lawn might burn up. If part of your heart burned up because it couldn’t get enough sprinkling, it could mean a heart attack.