Diseases of the heart and circulatory system (CVD, or cardiovascular disease) were the second most common cause of death in the UK in 2014 with about 155,000 deaths, or 27% of deaths overall – only just behind the infinitely more sinister cancer with 29% of deaths.
Coronary heart disease alone is the single biggest cause of premature death in UK men, causing 15% of premature male deaths. “Heart and circulatory disease still kills around one in four people in the UK, stealing them away from their families and loved ones,” says the British Heart Foundation.
And that’s before you start counting the financial cost – in England alone the NHS spent £4.3bn treating CVD in 2013-14. The good news, however, is that 80% of all heart disease is caused by modifiable lifestyle factors including diet, physical activity and smoking, and it’s not too late to undo damage caused by poor habits.
Read on to find out how you can help your heart in its pulsatory responsibilities and thus improve and extend your own stay on earth. But first, five things you (probably) never knew about your love pump.
1. Your heart isn’t on the left-hand side of your chest
It’s actually centrally located under the breastbone. The heart itself is asymmetrical and the left ventricle has muscular walls that are much thicker and larger than the right because it is responsible for pumping blood all the way around the body.
2. Your heart is the size of two fists
It’s often said that your heart is the size of your fist, but this is only true for children – once you grow to adulthood it’s actually the size of both of them.
3. Your heart beats with the force of you squeezing a tennis ball
Squash a tennis ball in your hand and you’re using about the same amount of force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body.
4. Your heart will pump three supertankers of blood before you die
If you live an average lifetime then your heart will pump a million barrels worth of blood around your body. Your 5.6 litres of blood circulates through your body three times in every minute and travels 12,000 miles in a day.
5. You can die from a broken heart
Stress cardiomyopathy is where heart muscles are temporarily weakened by a shock or stressful event.