Heart ailments are rising very rapidly as our lifestyles become more sedentary and eating habits increasingly unhealthy. Common understanding of the cardiac architecture and guidance of a sound lifestyle can help promote a healthier life.
It is a marvel of a rare kind. At the very start of life, in-vitro heart cells are the first ones to form. It is the unique marvel of the heart cells that these are formed as beating cells from the beginning. Each new cell joins the older in synchronous beating. Formed as beating cells, they continue beating with rhythmic regularity. The beating builds up as more and more heart cells are formed and take the intermediate shape of a tube in most mammals that beats with normal regularity and the beat does not stop until the life itself comes to an end.
Unlike most body cells, the heart cells do not divide and self-generate. If you have a bruise on your hand, the process of healing includes the division of cells to create new cells to repair the damaged ones. The ability of self-healing is not available to the most important organ that defines life. Only about one percent of the heart cells divide in a year and this is not enough to repair a damaged part. The part of the heart muscle that suffers damage through an attack can never self-heal. This is the most challenging part of human life as it is becoming more and more vulnerable to stresses resulting from the sedentary lifestyles, low in physical activity and heavy in carbohydrates and fatty diets.
Only about one percent of the heart cells divide in a year and this is not enough to repair a damaged part. The part of the heart muscle that suffers damage through an attack can never self-heal. This is the most challenging part of human life as it is becoming more and more vulnerable to stresses resulting from the sedentary lifestyles, low in physical activity and heavy in carbohydrates and fatty diets.
There is an ongoing research on the use of selected stem cells to generate a piece of heart muscle in an experimental dish and sewing the patch on the damaged part of the heart to start functioning normally. This line of research shows promise for damaged heart repair in a few years.
The first adult heart transplant took place in 1967 by Dr. Christiaan Barnard in South Africa. Though the transplant technology has greatly improved since, the difficulty lies in getting the donors. There are always a large number of people on the heart transplant list, but seldom is someone lucky enough to get a new lease of life through a donor heart as the prevailing waiting time exceeds seven months.
All its life, the heart keeps beating and pumping, never slowing down. Heart is a muscle and like all other muscles, it too can be strengthened through physical activity of workouts, walks and jogs. The more you work your heart, the stronger it becomes. It is a bounty of nature that heart of the life can so easily be strengthened. Perhaps, no other vital organ in the human body is as pure a muscle as the heart. For an octogenarian, for example, the heart would have accomplished over three billion beats in life. The real marvel is that no matter what its biological age, the heart can still feel young and sprightly. The metaphor of ‘young at heart’ is a common observation and it is equally accessible to us all.
Heart muscle can be strengthened through exercise, provided the arteries that carry the blood to the heart are not constricted. As you exercise, you need more blood and the arteries have to be clear and flexible to stretch to carry more blood needed by the heart. The plaque starts depositing inside the arteries due to higher concentration of the low density cholesterol. It is for this reason that Exercise Tolerance Test (ETT) is a useful indication of the efficiency of the heart arteries for carrying the additional required blood. If the arteries are healthy, you can pump as much of blood as needed for your heart to exercise as vigorously as you want to strengthen the primary muscle.
Heart is a muscle and like all other muscles, it too can be strengthened through physical activity of workouts, walks and jogs. The more you work your heart, the stronger it becomes. It is a bounty of nature that heart of the life can so easily be strengthened.
Another cause of damaging the heart arteries is high blood pressure. The heart has to operate and compress blood against higher back pressure which weakens the arteries and the heart in the long run. The fact that the heart is a muscle, it can be strengthened at any stage to any extent.
Although our brain is the greatest marvel that houses our cognition, perception and imagination, heart is the one that keeps the brain alive to perform wonders in life. The heart pervasively symbolises our feelings of love. A whole range of red heart emojis are used in a variety of ways to emote the intensity of our feelings.
A famous poet has so eloquently differentiated between the emotional metaphor of the heart and the guiding wisdom of the mind:
“Laazim hae dil kae pas rahe pasban-e-aqal,
Laikin kabhi kabhi ise tanha bhi chor dae”.
(Keep a wisdom check on the longings of the heart, but once in a while let it have its way!)
The writer holds a PhD degree from Stanford University, California, USA. He is a former Federal Secretary and has been the CEO/Chairman of OGDCL and Chairman NEPRA.
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