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For the last seven 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 be 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.
Why do I share all of this about the heart? I believe that heart health begins with awareness of how fantastic our heart muscle truly is and how it has so many qualities that we as humans find important. I think if we can have an appreciation for what our heart does for us perhaps we will treat it better.