The heart has been called the root of life. Its pulse first echoed in your mother’s womb eight months before you were born, and its gentle rhythmic beat will be with you till the end of your days. For the heart never sleeps.
The heart is the most efficient pump in the world. Weighing 11 ounces, it is a blood-filled bag of muscle the size of a fist. Each day it pumps 5,000 gallons of blood around the body. It heats about 18 million times a year and in an average lifetime enough blood is circulated around the body to fill the Albert Hall.
Aristotle believed the heart to be an organ from which ‘the motions of the body commence’. Certainly, the rhythm of the heart allows the brain to think, the lungs to breathe and the muscles to move. Each time your heart beats it pumps your oxygen-rich blood to feed your muscles and vital organs. It is then pumped back again to the heart and sent to the lungs to pick up more oxygen before it starts on its way again.
The heart is not only a part of our body but it is part of our language. We talk about someone being ‘strong hearted’ or ‘weak hearted’ and we urge people to ‘be of good heart’. We express a sense of commitment when we do something ‘with all our heart’. And we feel vital and alive when we are ‘at the heart of things’.
Considering that the heart is so important to us, many of us fail to treat it with the respect it deserves. According to the World Health Organisation, worldwide cardiovascular diseases are ‘public health enemy No. 1’ taking 12 million lives each year. According to WHO estimates, a half of all these deaths are preventable, which means that 6 million lives could be saved annually. The increase in cardiovascular diseases is linked in part to the ageing in populations but also to lifestyle and the main risk factors which influence heart health. It used to be said that a man is as old as his arteries, but it would be more accurate to say that a man is as young as his arteries. The way that we live our lives can affect our arteries and our heart. The statistics for coronary heart disease show that many of us urgently need to review our lifestyles — what we need is a ‘change of heart’. Read the passage carefully and answer the questions that follow:-