How Well Do You Know Your Heart Health?

SCIENCE

Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Unless you are a Time Lord or you suffer from a very rare genetic mutation, you only have one heart, and that means if you want it to last your entire lifetime without giving up on you, you need to take care of it. Your heart doesn't get nights off, like parts of your brain. It doesn't have a partner, like your lungs and kidneys. It can't nap in the afternoons, like your digestive system. Your heart has to start working before you're even born and then keep on keeping on for the best part of a century without a single meaningful break.

Certain external environmental factors like growing up in the house with a smoker or living downwind from a cement factory can really damage your heart. You might also be unfortunate in your parentage. However, most of your heart health is within your control, meaning that your choices really matter - and the worse your genes or environment, the more crucial it becomes that you do your best to alleviate the unfair hand you have been dealt by both nature and nurture. You don't have to be a varsity sports-playing vegan with hours of time and lots of money to lavish on yourself, either: you just have to make a few small tweaks for large results. So let's see how well you know the basics of what a healthy heart looks like so you know what direction to point yourself. Good luck!

What is "good cholesterol"?

HDL cholesterol is good for you because it carries the bad LDL cholesterol back to the liver from other places in the body, so that it can be processed.

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What is a healthy adult heart rate in beats per minute?

This depends on a lot of factors like how big you are, but generally speaking you want to be between 60-100 bpm. If you're very fit, you might be between 45-60 though, as your heart gets stronger and does not need to work as hard.

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What is a healthy blood pressure?

120 over 70 is fine, 140 over 90 is fine-ish. Lower or higher could cause trouble.

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What does your blood pressure actually measure?

Blood pressure is how fast your blood is going and with how much force - that is, if it's too low, maybe you haven't got enough blood (literally), but more likely it means it's not being pumped with enough force. If it is too high, you might have blockages or inelastic blood vessels.

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How many Americans die of heart disease every year?

One in four deaths is due to heart disease, so take care of the little fella!

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What is a heart murmur?

A whooshing sound between beats is called a heart murmur. It can be totally benign or incredibly serious. If you have one and it doesn't go away, please, get yourself checked out. It might be nothing, but wouldn't you rather know?

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What is special about heart cells?

If you put human heart cells in a petri dish, as long as they are alive, they'll beat. They don't care if they are attached to a heart: those tough little guys will beat, God help them.

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What are the main bigger chambers of the heart called?

The little chambers are atria and the big ones are ventricles.

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What is a stent?

A stent is a little tube that goes in a large blood vessel that has ruptured or narrowed. It used to be very serious having one put in, and while it is no picnic now, it's not nearly as terrifying as it was.

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Which of these means you have a blocked blood vessel?

A heart attack is when you have a blockage that deprives your heart of oxygen, and heart tissue can actually die. It's very serious, but often treatable if you get help quickly.

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What is the difference between an artery and a vein?

As your biology teacher probably put it, "A, A, arteries away!" Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart, veins bring oxygen-poor blood back to it.

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What color is blood inside the body?

Blood is red, it's just redder when it is oxygenated. Your veins look blue under your skin due to the way light passes through or is reflected by skin.

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What is a stroke?

If your blood supply to your brain is disrupted, you can have a stroke. This might happen for many reasons. A stroke is also called a brain attack, as it is characterized by brain tissue dying. It's very important to be treated within an hour to save the brain tissue.

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What is a capillary?

The capillary is the smallest kind of blood vessel, and you have many, many thousands of them!

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What are the first symptoms of stroke?

Stroke patients may also get tingling, pain, dizziness or all sorts of other problems. Think FAST: that's Face, Arms, Speech, and Time to call 911.

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How many gallons of blood does your heart pump every day?

You only have 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood in your body but it goes round and round so that your blood has to pump 2,000 per day.

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How long are your blood vessels, all together?

Your blood vessels are 60,000 miles long, which is over 1/5 of the way to the moon!

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What day of the year has the highest number of heart attacks?

Christmas Day is when people eat and drink far more than is good for them while pretending to like all of their relatives (invariably including one who they frankly don't). The combination of indulgence and stress can kill!

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Where is the first written recommendation of a vegetarian diet to promote heart health?

The Book of Daniel is in the New Testament and is the first account of going green to stay healthy.

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How many times a day does your heart beat?

The heart beats 100,000 beats a day!

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Where does blood go from the left side of your heart?

It goes from the left to the lungs, and from the right to the rest of the body.

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If your heart stops beating, how long do you have to get it started again before you will experience injury or death?

Some people can hold their breath longer than this, but they certainly cannot make their heart stop that long. They would definitely die.

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What does CPR stand for?

CPR is when you resuscitate a person whose breathing or heart has stopped, and manually make it work until it can be made to start working again on its own.

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A defibrillator gives you an electric shock. What does it actually do?

It doesn't actually restart your heart, it just makes it go back to a better rhythm if it is going too fast or going irregularly.

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What is a pacemaker?

Pacemakers save lots of lives as they help people's heart rate stay regular.

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Women's hearts beat a little faster than men's, on average. What's the difference in beats per minute?

Women's hearts go about 8 beats per minute faster than men's, on average. This is not always the case, though, so if your heart is faster or slower than your opposite-gender friends, don't worry.

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Which is the only part of the body that does not get blood from the heart?

This is one reason that a corneal transplant is so likely to be accepted by the body.

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How fast does a newborn baby's heart beat?

Babies have very fast little hearts. Listening to them on a stethoscope is very exciting!

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What is one result of congestive heart failure?

Having a big heart is only a good thing in a non-literal way. If your heart is very sick, it can expand to twice the size of a regular heart!

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How much of your risk for heart disease is due to lifestyle factors like exercise and not smoking?

This is good news as it means you can radically alter your odds of keeling over from a heart attack!

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Roughly how big is a heart valve?

A healthy valve is the size of a half-dollar coin.

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Why is heart cancer very rare?

Cancer means uncontrolled cell division, so it struggles to happen in places where there isn't any cell division going on.

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How long does one heartbeat take, typically?

Your heart doesn't always do these at the same speed and there's a little gap between them, but generally speaking, they take about 0.8 of a second each.

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What's one surprising symptom of heart trouble?

If your body retains too much water, that might be a sign that your heart is weak.

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Can you really die of a broken heart?

It's true! Serious stress or sadness can cause your heart to give up. Chemicals like the stress hormone cortisol are incredibly bad for your heart's function. Your heart is so connected to your mind that after genetics and diet/exercise, your best protection against heart trouble is an active social life, ideally including a happy marriage.

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