Posts Tagged ‘heart

The Tell-tale Heart

- May 11th, 2012

heartbeat

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

I had a friend who was terrified by the sound of her own heartbeat, who would absolutely freak if she had to feel a pulse — either her own or someone else’s.

 

I hate to admit it, but I found her phobia interesting and would sometimes feed it. A case of schadenfreude, I guess, not something I’m particularly proud of.

 

Now I have not come to share her fear of the body’s mechanical function, but I think I understand it a little better.

 

That pulse, that heartbeat represents life and it would be so easy for every contraction and expansion of the heart to be its last. We live every second of our lives in blind faith and a willful refusal to acknowledge that we are always one heartbeat away from oblivion.

 

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.

— Joseph Campbell

 

This train of thought was sparked by a passing comment from Dr. Gifford-Jones, the Sun Media medical columnist, that it has been said we each have a specific allotment of heartbeats and when we reach our quota, that’s it.

 

He was being a bit whimsical but it got me thinking — what is my allotment of heartbeats?

 

I’m not great at math but I’m pretty good at using a calculator, so I started crunching numbers. And the results staggered me.

 

For starters, I learned that a normal resting adult heart rate can vary between 40 and 100 beats per minute (the fitter you are, the lower the rate).

heart

So I took the mid-point of 70 heart beats per minute and multiplied by 60 to come up with heartbeats per hour and then multiplied that by 24 to get the average number of times your/my heart beats in one day.

 

The answer blew my mind and almost stopped my heart: 100,800.

 

More than 100,000 heartbeats every single day you’re alive. Which means in one year, an average, normal adult human heart beats roughly 36,792,000 times — 36,892,800 in a leap year.

 

As it happens, I recently checked out my longevity rating on the life expectancy calculator of the Ontario Population Health Improvement Research Network.  (If you want to try it, here’s a link to their website.)

 

I was surprised to learn that, given my lifestyle and activities, I have a pretty good shot at living to be 84 years old. I don’t believe it but I’m willing to go the distance as long as I’m not forced to live those last years in too much pain or indignity.

 

If I make it to my 84th year, MY HEART WILL HAVE BEATEN MORE THAN THREE BILLION TIMES.

 

Isn’t that staggering? How can that little meat muscle, that mechanical pump made of flesh and blood possibly beat THREE BILLION TIMES? It really is The Little Engine That Could. I have new respect for my heart.

 

The scary thing is that I’m already past the two-billion-beat mark. Surely my warranty has run out by now. Will I be walking down the street some day now and — bang! — my heart just seizes up on beat number 2,407,520,196 like a blown piston?

 

Could be. There are, after all, no guarantees.

 

But I am mighty proud that this old ticker has banged its way through two billion beats already. For that I’m thankful. The next billion beats are just icing on the cake. As long as I don’t eat too much cake.