For the last several years I have taught anatomy and physiology as an adjunct professor to nursing students. Interestingly, we are studying the heart during heart health month. I have been thinking about the exquisiteness of the heart as a muscle and as a metaphor of how to live our lives.
The main function of the heart is to act as an engine or a pump that allows the rest of our body perform its functions. The heart is the only muscle in our bodies that never rest - it is always working for our good so we can stay alive. As an engine it pumps out 4-5 liters of blood to the entire body every minute (that’s two 2-liter soda bottle's worth of blood every minute). When we choose to exercise it can pump five times that amount in one minute's time.
Its ability to be flexible as the environment changes is amazing. The heart provides nourishment to itself first before supplying blood to any other part of the body. It recognizes that without self-care and nourishment it will not be able to keep all the other parts operational.
When the heart's arteries become blocked it creates new ones to continue to feed itself. Its ability to change and adapt to correct a dangerous situation is live-saving. It has an intricate communication system so that muscle cells can work as a collective to pump at the same time. It understands the importance of collective work and communication to get a task accomplished with split-second accuracy.
The heart regulates itself but can be influenced by positive outside factors from other body systems. It takes new input to change direction for the good quickly. The heart does all of this, yet it is only the size of our human fist.
Perhaps we will eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains every day. Perhaps we will become willing to exercise 30 minutes five times per week. Perhaps we will manage our stress to reduce extra burdens for our hearts. Perhaps we will help to extend the life of our heart through changing our behaviors that cause damage to our hearts. Perhaps with this new knowledge of how exquisite our heart is we can change the statistics that one in two women will die of heart disease.
I believe our hearts have a lot to teach us about how to love ourselves better. Are you willing to listen?
Dr. Daemon Jones
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