How’s your heart?

heart

Photo Credit : Cathal Mac an Bheatha

It has begun… the emails suggesting presents, Pinterest pages and promotions for Valentine’s day are flooding my inbox!

Don’t get me wrong, those who know me well, know that I’m an old romantic and love nothing more than a good rom-com (much to the delights of my husband and teenage boys who are more into action, adventure and history films!)

But as Valentine’s day approaches, it got me thinking about our hearts, and how complex they are.

In fact, they are phenomenal.

Our hearts are a remarkable piece of architecture, engineering and art, all rolled into one.

Here are a few, fascinating facts about our hearts…

  • Our heart is made up of muscle cells that are different in structure to every other cell in the body; they don’t fatigue in the same way as the rest of our cells.
  • This is just as well because our heart beats an average of 72 times each minute.
  • This equates to over 100,000 beats every day of our lives, meaning they can beat around 3 billion times in our lifetime – hopefully without stopping, or needing a service!
  • Our heart’s purpose is to serve almost every other cell in the body with blood, providing valuable nutrients and clearing away toxins.
  • Our heart is around the size of our fist when clenched, and weighs around 300 grams (the weight of a packet of biscuits).
  • Our heart pumps approximately 2,000 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of connected blood vessels each day, at a rate anywhere between 5 and 30 litres of blood per minute.

Let’s put this into perspective; my car holds around 10 gallons of fuel in a full tank, and if I’m really lucky, will take me around 400 miles. To add to that, my heart can pump – in just one minute – around two-thirds of what my entire fuel tank can hold – and my car only goes 0.006 times as far, around 500 times slower!

Another lesser-known feature of the heart is that it has a special blood supply all of its own. This supply branches from the base of the main blood vessel leaving the heart, and ensures that the heart is provided with all the blood it needs to remain healthy before it serves the rest of the body. 

Our hearts are not only amazing, but they play a vital role in keeping us alive. That is why we talk about being intentional about healthy eating and staying active to prevent heart disease and keep our hearts as healthy as possible.

But as Valentine’s day reminds us, our heart isn’t purely a physical structure or piece of anatomy – it is also where we associate feelings of love; including value, belonging and worth… and when we lack these feelings of love, we feel that in our heart too, and refer to ‘heartache’ or even ‘a broken heart’.

The bible talks about the greatest love being an “agape” love. This is a selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love. It is this kind of Love God asks of his followers when he says the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.

Whether you believe in God or read the Bible, the principle of loving others as ourselves is one I’d like to bring front and centre of our thoughts today.

To really love others from this ‘agape’ love; from a selfless place of service, sacrificial and unconditional love; we need to invest in maintaining a healthy heart of our own, or ‘love ourselves well’ first.

In today’s culture, this is counter-intuitive. It can even be deemed selfish or arrogant. To be clear,  I’m not talking about making yourself the centre of your universe. I’m simply suggesting that by loving God (if you believe in God) and getting clear on what loving ourselves first (or self-care) might look like, we could love others in a far richer and healthier way, and for longer.

In the same way that the heart first supplies itself with just what it needs to keep healthy before it serves the rest of our body: having a healthy love for ourselves means we can really love and serve others well, without placing our own emotional needs on them too.

So as Valentine’s day approaches, I wonder how your heart is, and what ‘loving yourself first’ might look like for you this week? Do let us know by emailing niky@nullintentionalhealth.uk.

Next week we will continue our heart theme and consider how we can care for our whole heart. If you found this post helpful or inspiring, please share it so others can benefit too!

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