Simple routines add up to a lot of heart beats

Challenges of Living to Age 100


Do you remember the slap on the back on your birthday? The doctor or midwife jolted your lungs and made you cry. Your heart already was beating. You were now alive and out of the comfort of the womb.

As a child, your heart beat quickly when excited about Christmas gifts. Your heart might have nearly stopped when a large dog approached you face to face on the sidewalk. Fear, joy and other emotions set the heart in motion to cope with the conditions.

While participating in sports events, the heart was charged as you accelerated with a winning performance. As a teenager and young adult, you experienced the fast beats of the heart when you fell in love. The impact of intimacy and marital love triggered faster beats. In mature adulthood, your heart jumped for joy with the birth of your children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren.

As we travel through life, the variety of events and experiences present challenges. We might live longer with various heart-healthy routines. Exercise, diet, mental fitness, regimes and pills keep the heart pump operating efficiently. Heart problems are corrected with medications, catheterizations, pacemakers, ablations, bypasses and even transplants. We get more beats.

Recently, I learned of a family friend who ran out of beats. JoEllen Torresani was a most competitive athlete. From early youth, she trained and competed. She ran marathons, competed in triathlons and skied cross country in international events. On vacation this summer, Torresani dropped dead at age 55. The autopsy report showed “heart failure.” The doctor stated: “She used up all of her beats. Each heart has just so many beats.”

When my aging father with heart problems was asked to run on a treadmill, he told the doctor: “I have only so many beats. When I was a research engineer, we put truck engines through tests to see when the pistons would blow out. You’re not blowing mine.”

When I talk to centenarians, they share their secrets about heart beats that include: “I get up every day and thank God for a new day.” Another says: “I breathe and go for a walk.” The routines are simple. Those who enjoy a long life have maintained a balanced life with moderation, faith and a caring approach one beat at a time. 

Ed Baranowski is president of Topics Unlimited, a Melbourne-based education, seminar and consulting company. He can be reached at

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