February is Heart Awareness Month

Of all of the muscles in your body, the heart is the most important one, because it pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout your body and also removes a lot of waste products from your blood stream.

Having a well-conditioned heart and lungs provides you with a greater supply of energy in addition to lowering the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases.

Your heart is somewhat similar to other muscles within your body, because the only way to get the heart stronger is by exercising it. Walking, cycling, swimming, jogging, kickboxing, Zumba, elliptical machines, and rowing machines are all classic examples of cardio-based exercise. Simply stated, “use it or lose it.”

I always like comparing the human body to an automobile. Even though a car may have a rusted and dented exterior, the key to the car lays under the hood, especially the engine. Your heart is, in essence, your engine. Treat it properly, and you can add many more years to your life.

Here are some facts about the heart that you may find interesting:

  • It is the size of your fist and weighs less than 16 ounces.
  • Blood-vessel highway. The average human body has 60,000 miles of blood vessels that help provide oxygen to your muscles and also take away waste products.
  • A typical resting heart rate is 70 beats per minute. By the time you reach 65, your heart will have beaten 2.5 billion times.
  • Thin is in. Your capillaries are your smallest blood vessels and are 50 times thinner than the finest human hair.
  • Extra weight equals extra work. If you are 25 pounds overweight, you have nearly 5,000 extra miles of blood vessels. This creates a greater demand on your heart since it has to pump more blood through a greater mass.
  • “In the course of one day, you will inhale about 3,500 gallons of air.
  • Recipe for success. Move your body and you will reap the many benefits. Everyone has different goals, but the key to everyone to consistency. Find some activity that you enjoy and stick with it.
  • Stuck in an exercise rut? Break out of the plateau by adding a different activity or adding some interval workouts to “shock” your system. Many exercisers fall into the (same-old, same-old)trap. Doing the same thing month after month and year after year may result in stagnation and a possible weight-loss stalemate.
  • Your body is a well-designed machine that was created to move. Movement is health. Use your muscles, or you will suffer the consequences. Find an activity that you like and stick with it.
  • If you get bored with a routine, change it! Variety is the spice of workouts. Make an appointment with yourself to exercise. Find a workout partner or explore some group exercise classes. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.

This column is part of a special series on health and wellness written by UA Little Rock Employee Wellness Coordinator Karl Lenser, who can be reached at 501.907.8974 or kjlenser@ualr.edu.