How the heart works
The heart is part of your body’s circulatory system. It’s made up of the atria, ventricles, valves, and various arteries and veins. The main function of your heart is to keep blood that’s full of oxygen circulating throughout your body. Because your heart is crucial to your survival, it’s important to keep it healthy with a well-balanced diet and exercise, and avoid things that can damage it, like smoking.
While you’re probably familiar with a few heart-healthy tips, there are some fun facts about the heart that you may not know.
24 fun facts about the heart
- The average heart is the size of a fist in an adult.
- Your heart will beat about 115,000 times each day.
- Your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood every day.
- An electrical system controls the rhythm of your heart. It’s called the cardiac conduction system.
- The heart can continue beating even when it’s disconnected from the body.
- The first open-heart surgery occurred in 1893. It was performed by Daniel Hale Williams, who was one of the few black cardiologists in the United States at the time.
- The first implantable pacemaker was used in 1958. Arne Larsson, who received the pacemaker, lived longer than the surgeon who implanted it. Larsson died at 86 of a disease that was unrelated to his heart.
- The youngest person to receive heart surgery was only a minute old. She had a heart defect that many babies don’t survive. Her surgery was successful, but she’ll eventually need a heart transplant.
- The earliest known case of heart disease was identified in the remains of a 3,500-year-old Egyptian mummy.
- The fairy fly, which is a kind of wasp, has the smallest heart of any living creature.
- The American pygmy shrew is the smallest mammal, but it has the fastest heartbeat at 1,200 beats per minute.
- Whales have the largest heart of any mammal.
- The giraffe has a lopsided heart, with their left ventricle being thicker than the right. This is because the left side has to get blood up the giraffe’s long neck to reach their brain.
- Most heart attacks happen on a Monday.
- Christmas day is the most common day of the year for heart attacks to happen.
- The human heart weighs less than 1 pound. However, a man’s heart, on average, is 2 ounces heavier than a woman’s heart.
- A woman’s heart beats slightly faster than a man’s heart.
- The beating sound of your heart is caused by the valves of the heart opening and closing.
- It’s possible to have a broken heart. It’s called broken heart syndrome and can have similar symptoms as a heart attack. The difference is that a heart attack is from heart disease and broken heart syndrome is caused by a rush of stress hormones from an emotional or physical stress event.
- Death from a broken heart, or broken heart syndrome, is possible but extremely rare.
- The iconic heart shape as a symbol of love is traditionally thought to come from the silphium plant, which was used as an ancient form of birth control.
- If you were to stretch out your blood vessel system, it would extend over 60,000 miles.
- Heart cells stop dividing, which means heart cancer is extremely rare.
- Laughing is good for your heart. It reduces stress and gives a boost to your immune system.
Your heart affects every part of your body. That also means that diet, lifestyle, and your emotional well-being can affect your heart. Emotional and physical health are both important for maintaining a healthy heart.