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A Man's Heart, Physically Speaking

Share This article - Your fist-sized heart weighs seven to fifteen ounces, depending on your overall body weight, and is roughly cone-shaped with the smaller end at the bottom. The human heart is made up of muscle tissue and is hollow so it can serve as a temporary reservoir for blood. The heart’s function during your lifetime is to keep your blood circulating through the arteries, veins, and capillaries of your body. If you achieve normal life expectancy of 15 around seventy-four years for men, your heart will beat about 3.5 billion times.

A man’s heart is generally larger than a woman’s heart, simply because men on average are larger than women in overall body size. Compare your fist with a woman’s fist to get an idea of the heart size difference. But there are other physical characteristics related to the heart that set men apart from women. It is important for you to understand these differences, because they have an impact on your heart health.

A Man Has a Higher Metabolic Rate
Stacy and Mick are on a diet. They carefully watch what they eat and run three miles a day together. But Mick is losing more weight than Stacy, and it irritates her to no end. There’s good reason for it, however. A man’s internal “engine” for processing calories runs at a faster speed than a woman’s. Bottom line: the average man can eat a little more and exercise a little less than the average woman to achieve the same weight goals and overall health.

A Man’s Cholesterol is Different
Cholesterol is a significant concern in the pursuit of heart health because abnormal cholesterol levels in the blood are known to contribute to heart disease. There are two designations of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Most people know them as “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL).You may remember that high HDL scores are good and low LDL scores are bad.

As a man, you are at a slight genetic disadvantage when it comes to cholesterol. Men tend to have lower levels of good cholesterol than women. So you definitely cannot ignore the concerns about cholesterol in your diet. A woman’s advantage in this area goes away later in life. After menopause, decreasing levels of estrogen in a woman’s system result in decreasing levels of HDL, meaning that a woman’s cholesterol profile after menopause begins to look more like a man’s. This change in profile also elevates the risk of heart problems in postmenopausal women. If your wife, mother, or another female loved one is in this age range, encourage them to go in for regular cholesterol screenings.

A Man’s Symptoms of Heart Attack and Other Heart Problems are Different
Generally speaking, heart-attack symptoms in men are more specific than those of women. Typically, we find that men experiencing heart attack complain of chest discomfort and numbness in the left arm. Shortness of breath and sweating may also occur. However, many men have atypical symptoms, and some may even have a heart attack with no symptoms at all. In fact, it has been estimated that 50 percent of all people with coronary heart disease have as their first event either a heart attack or sudden death. This is why coronary artery disease (CAD) is called the “silent killer.”

While some women experience the same symptoms as men, others experience pain at the top of the back, a burning sensation in the upper abdomen, nausea, flu-like symptoms, anxiety, and sweating. Some women who suffer a heart attack don’t even know it. A man’s telltale signs of chest pain and numbness are usually hard to miss or ignore.

Heart Disease in Men Usually Surfaces Earlier in Life
A woman’s hormonal makeup works in favor early in life. Estrogen is known to act as a type of shield against cardiovascular disease. After menopause, when estrogen levels decline markedly, is when most women show signs of heart problems. Men, however, do not enjoy the advantage of this estrogen shield. Therefore, men are more susceptible to heart disease throughout life. We have set apart chapter 5 for a thorough exploration of heart disease in men.

A Man’s Psychological Approach to Heart Health and Weight Loss is Different
There are many factors that motivate persons to control their weight and pursue a healthy lifestyle. Men seem primarily motivated by increasing their strength, while women pursue these goals to enhance their appearance. While both qualities are desirable to both sexes, men tend to stay with diet and exercise to develop muscle, while women do so to look good.

Copyright © 2006 Dr. Ed Young, Dr. Michael Duncan, and Dr. Richard Leachman, Reprinted with permission from Total Heart Health for Men, W Publishing Group.

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