Your heart can, in fact, go on without you.

We care a lot about our hearts, and it’s not just because they keep us alive. Theres no organ more memorable than your heart. It’s the subject of countless songs, books, poems, it even has its own holiday dedicated to it. But did you know your heart can survive without you? But for how long? And how is this medical phenomenon possible?

Pop culture might make you think your heart does a lot of things. It tells us who to love, makes us emotional and helps us write cheesy love songs. But in reality, none of this is true, your heart doesn’t think. It’s just a muscle that pumps blood to keep you alive. One thing that is true, it’s an extremely hard worker. Your heart beats, on average, over 3 billion times during your lifetime. It’s constantly pumping blood throughout your body — delivering oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and brain in order for them to stay healthy and work properly.

Your heart works so hard, it even puts in a little overtime. But how? Your heart can beat completely independently of you as long as oxygen is provided. Keep in mind, that if your brain fails then so will your heart. But let’s say your heart somehow gets taken out of your body a la Temple of Doom (may need to cut). It’ll survive, but not for long without medical intervention.

The reason your heart survives is because it isn’t regulated by your brain. Sure your brain has to do with how fast or slow your heart rate is, but it doesn’t actually control the beat of your heart. Everything you need to make your heart work, is right within the heart itself.

That’s because your heartbeats are sparked by your own natural pacemaker – found within your heart. Without this, your brain would have to send a signal to your heart to trigger every beat. How annoying would that be? Instead, electrical impulses in your heart are triggered by the sinoatrial node, or SA node. These impulses travel along the walls of your right and left atrium. Stimulating the top part of your heart to contract which, in turn, pumps blood to the ventricles.

Even after your heart is disconnected from your body, the SA node still sends impulses throughout the organ, allowing it to pump. This continues until the cells run out of energy, about 3 to 5 minutes. But don’t worry, if your heart ever does escape your body it’ll most likely be due to a transplant. With the help of some doctors and an ice box, your heart can survive outside of your body up to 4 hours. Primarily because it gets fed nutrients and because the cold temperature keeps it from beating, and from wasting energy. Once the heart starts to warm back up, it starts beating like normal.

Technology has also improved the amount of time a heart can spend outside the body. Machines are available to keep pumping blood through your heart, so it can survive even longer while waiting for a transplant. Even though our heart doesn’t really need us, we certainly need it. It may not be an essential factor in you writing the next great love ballad, but without it you wouldn’t be able to make the music in the first place.


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