At the heart of the matter

Annie Salamone

You don’t have to tell a woman that her heart goes through a lot, she already knows. Full of passion and strength, it’s likely been stolen, broken and won over a thousand times. But what you can tell her that she might not know is that taking care of her heart is one of the most important things she can do for herself.

Only 8 percent of women think cardiovascular disease is the greatest risk to their health. In fact, it kills about half a million women each year – more women die of heart disease than the next seven leading causes of death combined. In honor of National Woman’s Heart Health Day and American Heart Month, The Villanovan presents some facts ¾ and dispels a few myths ¾ to help women keep their hearts in good order.

n Contrary to popular belief, the heart is actually located in the center of your chest, between your lungs. Its position makes it tap against the left side of your chest while beating, making it feel like it’s actually to the left.

n As an adult, your heart is about the size of both of your fists, and it will beat about 2.5 billion times in your lifetime.

n Your heart pumps blood with about the same force as a person squeezing a tennis ball.

n The aorta is the largest artery in the body, and has a diameter roughly that of a garden hose. Capillaries, however, are so small that it would take ten of them to equal the thickness of a human hair.

n In one day, blood travels through the body the equivalent of 12,000 miles, or four times the distance from U.S. coast to coast.

n Estrogen raises HDL (the “good cholesterol”), which helps to explain why pre-menopausal women are generally protected from heart disease. Although exact reasons are currently unknown, scientists think estrogen makes arteries more flexible, allowing them to expand when they become blocked. A loss of estrogen, which typically occurs after menopause, results in a decline in HDL as well as less flexibility of the arteries, putting women at a higher risk for developing heart disease.

Scientists agree that the most effective way to keep your heart healthy is a combination of eating right and exercising regularly. Information on proper diet and exercise is available at the Health and Wellness Center or through Dining Services’s website at