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St Valentine's Day

Published: 13 Feb 2014

The heart is one of the most recognised symbols in both human history and modern culture. From playing cards to video games, the heart is used as a symbol of vitality and life. But in reality, the heart is a much more complex instrument than the simple ideograph would have you believe. Here are ten interesting facts and stories about the human heart to get your heart pumping this Valentine’s Day.

• The average adult heart beats around 72 times a minute which equates to over 2.5 billion times over an average lifetime.

• This creates enough energy in a day to drive a truck over 20 miles.

• This is despite the heart only weighing around 11 ounces.

• Throughout the ages different peoples have speculated on what the role of the heart was in human anatomy. Galen of Pergamum, a surgeon to Roman gladiators, was the first to demonstrate that arteries were filled with blood, and not air as previously thought.

• He also believed that the heart acted as a low-temperature oven to keep the blood warm and that blood trickled from one side of the heart to the other through tiny holes. This view that was still held in the 16th century.

• Meanwhile, in Ancient Greece, Plato speculated that the human heart was where emotion and passion originated from, whilst the brain was purely for logic and reasoning.

• Aristotle’s theory that the heart collected sensory input from the peripheral organs through the blood vessels causing emotion, gave us the word “heartfelt”

• Further to this, in a very tall tale, Richard the Lionheart reputedly earned his epithet by pulling a lion’s heart from out of its stomach to save a fair maiden.

• The “thump-thump” motion associated with the heart is caused by the sound of the four valves closing when the blood is circulated. Amazingly, the heart pumps blood to almost all of the body’s 75 trillion cells with only the corneas receiving no blood supply.

• The first known depiction of a heart as a symbol of romantic love dates to the 1250s. It appeared in a French manuscript a love-struck gentleman offers a damsel his heart.

With Coronary heart disease (CHD), being the single largest cause of death in the UK, all of these facts go to show how important it is to look after this incredible instrument as best we can.

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