Photo by: Dr.RK.Jain

Most often we tend to assume that we really know what it means by the noun, Heart. But then how many of us have taken that initiative to get to know what it is, how it works and how to care for it? Do we really understand that it is the vital organ in our bodies that keeps us going? Moreover, are you one of the people who have really fought the fear and gone for some heart checkup? Answer your heart.

Today am actually briefing you of the basics about the heart. Right from the definition of the heart and its importance, how it works, when to know that your heart it working at its peak, the risk factors to heart attack and the subtle signs that tell that you could be having a heart complication.

What is a heart?

A heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood throughout the body via the circulatory system (arteries, veins and capillaries), supplying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removing carbon (IV) Oxide and other wastes. It is located under your ribcage in the center of your chest between the right and left lungs.
Dr. Lawrence Phillips, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York says,” The tissues of the body need a constant supply of nutrition in order to be active. So if the heart is not able to supply blood to the organs and the tissues, they will die.”
A healthy heart supplies your body with the right amount of blood at the rate needed to work well. If disease or injury weakens your heart, your body organs won’t receive enough blood to work normally.

How does the heart work?

A human heart consists of four chambers (2 atria and 2 ventricles) as taught in early classes and an electrical system. When the atria and ventricles of your heart relax, they are filled with blood. The heart’s atria then contract and pump blood into the ventricles. The atria then relax and the ventricles contract and pump blood out of the heart. There are also heart valves that open and close controlling the back flow of blood. An electrical system controls your heart. It uses electrical signals to contract the heart walls. When the walls contract, blood is pumped into your circulatory system. In- let and out- let valves in your heart chambers ensure that blood flows in the right direction.

What’s normal?

A normal healthy adult’s heart usually is the size of an average clenched adult fist. A normal heart beats at a range of 60-100 beats per minute. However, a lower heart rate at rest (40 to 60 beats per minute) implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness.  Thou there are many other factors that influence the heart rate like age, emotions, body size, body position and also being a smoker.
Sometimes we have strong hearts and we fail to recognize this. It is important to know if our hearts are strong and even reward ourselves for maintaining that good heart health.

Look at this! You have a strong heart.

Optimal Glucose levels

If you have an optimal blood sugar level then your heart health is in control. High blood sugar causes damage to the nerves and blood vessels hence increased heart disease.

Optimal Blood Pressure

This entails blood flow around your blood vessels at an optimal force to and from the heart. The most recent recommendations from a 2014 study says that adults under 60 should post numbers less than 140/90 mmHg.
Being constantly active and energetic
A good heart gives one a feeling that is on point. A sluggish feeling can be a sign of something wrong with your heart. When fatigued, it means that the heart isn’t able to pump enough blood that gives your body the nutrients it needs.

When your resting heart rate is on target

Check your heart rate. It is one of the best ways to monitor your heart and its strength.
You can count how many times your heart beats by taking your pulse.

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The two methods of taking your pulse are:

  • Place your index and middle fingers on the artery located on the inner wrist of either arm, below your thumb.
  • Feeling a pulsing against your fingers at the neck just below your jaw bone.

 NB: Count the number of pulses you feel in 30 seconds. Double the number to find out your heart rate or pulse for one minute. The usual resting pulse for an adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute.

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Your Electrocardiogram

The name itself sounds so huge but do not fear.This measures how long it takes an electrical wave to go through the heart which in turn lets you know if your heart beat is normal, slow, fast or irregular. Visit a doctor or pharmacist for checkup.

Optimal cholesterol levels

Total cholesterol should be less than 200mg/DL. The LDL”bad” cholesterol should be less than 100mg/DL and the HDL “good” cholesterol should be 60mg/DL or higher.

Able to slow down quickly and smoothly

This is a show of a strong and a healthy heart. To test it right, check your heart rate after the most intense exercise. Make a note and stop exercising and check it again after 2 minutes. If the numbers show that your heart rate declined by 66 or more beats in the two minutes then it means your heart is strong.
NB: Most of the above factors can be determined when you go for your checkup. So fight the fear off and see your doctor.

Having known what a normal heart entails, it is really essential for you to know the risk factors to heart attack so that you considerably drop the risks if manageable. A recent study notes that cardiovascular disease kills a large population of individuals.
The family states the following as the risk factors to heart disease:-

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  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of exercise
  • Family history of heart attack
  • Age
  • High Cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Stress
  • Obesity

According to the landmark Framington Heart Study, men free of six big factors ( High total cholesterol, Low HDL”good cholesterol”, diabetes, obesity and smoking) do not develop a cardiovascular disease till very old age. Hence as you age, keeping your heart healthy is paramount.

So after knowing the risk factors, it is also important to know the signs that can be indicators of a heart problem and also being aware of the silent heart attack will help you find help before the disease is in its advanced stages.

Watch for the following silent heart attack signs

1. Severe pressure, squeezing, pain or discomfort in the chest.
2. Pain or discomfort that spreads into the shoulders, neck, arms and jaw.
3. Chest pain that becomes more intense and one that isn’t relieved by rest.
4. Chest pain combined with:-

  • Sweating, cool and pale skin.
  • Shortness of breath due to problem with heart valves and its ability to pump blood.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue
  • Rapid and irregular pulse

5. Pain in the jaw, neck, upper back and chest.
6. Hoarseness because of pressure on the vocal chords.
7. Difficulty swallowing
8. Low blood pressure
9. Heart palpitations and anxiety.

Others include:-

Extremely tired

This is due to lack of oxygen. This indicates that the heart is struggling and straining to deliver oxygen to your body, says Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women’s Heart Health at the Heart and Vascular Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Swollen Feet

Is as a result of the heart pumping blood inefficiently. Michael Miller says that it can also occur when the heart valve does not close normally. The swollen feet can be accompanied by shortness of breath or fatigue.

Extreme pain when you walk

It can be a sign of peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) which is a buildup of fatty plaque in leg arteries that is linked to higher risk of heart disease.

Combined attack from anxiety, sweating and nausea 

If followed up with shortness of breath, extreme fatigue accompanied by pain, fullness, aching in your chest may suggest a heart attack.


Regular migraines suggest that something is wrong with your heart.

Getting dizzy and light-headed

A regular occurrence of the same may be due to blockages in arteries that lessen blood pressure or by faulty valves that cannot maintain blood pressure.

High sound of heart beat when asleep at night

This can be due to a faulty valve. A pounding heart beat can also be a sign of low blood pressure, low blood sugar, anaemia, dehydration and medications. So see your doctor to avoid freaking out.


Mental well-being is linked to physical well-being. Studies note that people who are depressed are at a greater risk of heart trouble. So it is advisable to seek help if depressed.

To conclude, i would like to encourage you to fight off that which is pulling you back in taking a step and take care of our hearts. Don’t let uncertainty lead to regret later on for you and your family.

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