Your Amazing Body
By: Victoria Heren, M.D.
It’s the time of year when many of us are thinking about gifts and packages. We probably don’t even think about an important package that is literally a part of us every day of the year. That package? The amazing human body.
Let’s start with wrapping – or the skin. Your skin is a remarkable organ. It is the largest organ in your body. Every square inch of skin consists of 19 million cells, 20 feet of blood vessels and has an average of 32 million bacteria on it. Your skin cells shed off at a rate of about 600,000 particles each hour and your outer skins cells regenerate about every 27 days. So, in essence, each month you have a new set of skin.
Your skin – the “wrapping paper” of the amazing human package is in place to protect everything that’s on the inside. And, like the skin, the numbers inside the human body are astounding. Here are a few:
• The adult human body is made up of approximately 100 trillion cells, 600 muscles, 206 bones and 22 internal organs.
• Muscle tissue makes up about 40 percent of your overall body weight. Blood about eight percent. Your bones are about 14 percent of your overall weight. Your skin about 12 percent. Your brain about two percent.
• While it comprises only about two percent of your overall body weight, the brain requires about 20 percent of your oxygen intake.
• Your circulatory system – made up of arteries, veins and capillaries – is about 60,000 miles long. That’s the distance you’d travel if you went round-trip from New York to California – 12 times!
• Every hour, about 180 million new red blood cells enter the blood stream. Red blood cells travel throughout the body delivering oxygen and nutrients and collecting carbon dioxide and waste.
• A single human blood cell takes about one minute to make a complete circuit of the body.
• White blood cells comprise only one percent of blood. This can double with 24 hours when a body responds to infection.
• Your intestines (small and large) measure somewhere around 25 feet in length. About 90 percent of the body’s nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine.
• The heart beats an average of 2.5 million times in a lifetime.
• You have about 9,000 taste buds on the surface of your tongue, throat and on the roof of your mouth.
• The average lifespan of a taste bud is about 10 days. In essence you have a new set of taste buds every two weeks. Tell that to your kids the next time they say they don’t like broccoli.
• An adult human brain weight about three pounds. It contains about 100 billion neurons.
• Nerve impulses to and from the brain can travel as fast as 170 miles per hour.
• Each of your kidneys contains about one million individual filters, which filter more than two pints of blood each minute.
• The human body is about 80 percent water. Even bones, which seem dense and solid are about 75 percent water.
• Adults require about 88 pounds of oxygen per day.
• The average cough comes out of your mouth at a speed of 60 miles per hour. The average sneeze is faster at 90 miles per hour. All the more reason to keep your distance from those with coughs and colds.
There’s no arguing with the numbers, the human body is beyond amazing. It’s not a package to take for granted, but one that you want to nurture and keep healthy. As you enter the new year, there are healthy lifestyle habits that you can choose to keep your amazing package well and fit.
• Since the body is made up of mostly water, the first habit is to stay hydrated. Avoid sugary drinks and sodas. Instead, reach for plain old water. Keeping your cells hydrated helps them work like they should. It allows the body to rid itself of waste.
• Eat foods that started out life as a plant. Fruits and vegetables are key to good health. Whenever possible, choose fresh over processed. Avoid fried or heavy, calorie-filled sauces. Pick a variety of colorful fruits and veggies whenever possible.
• Get out and get moving. You don’t have to run a marathon or try out for the Olympic team. Moderate exercise – walking, biking or swimming – increases your heart rate and respiration. You take in more oxygen and burn more calories. By walking just 20 minutes each day, the average person will burn off seven pounds of body fat in a year.
• Laugh. Laughing lowers levels of stress hormones and strengthens the immune system. Six-year-olds laugh an average of 300 times a day. Adults only laugh 15 to 100 times a day. So go ahead, act like a kid!
• Don’t smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke. You’ve heard this advice before. The hazards involved are well-researched and documented.
• Drink alcohol in moderation. Over-consumption puts stress on your organs, including the liver, stomach, kidneys, heart and brain.
• Get some shut-eye. The body needs to rest; that means you need to rest. Shoot for eight hours each night.
• Reduce stress. Take a look at the stressors in your life and how you might reduce or eliminate them. Can you work shorter hours? Cut back on your volunteer positions? Redistribute household tasks? If you feel stress in your life, it’s a sure bet that your entire body feels that same stress.
We are coming up on a new year. It’s a time when many people take stock of their lifestyle habits and work to make them healthier. When you look only at the numbers, it’s clear that your body is nothing short of an incredible package. Small, healthy changes serve to keep your body working and keep all those numbers right where they should be.
Dr. Heren is a board certified family practice physician at Raiter Clinic.