Lewis Bowling: Get to know your body a little better

May. 15, 2013 @ 04:32 PM

I always enjoy giving my college students some amazing facts about the human body, or give some numbers related to the complex machinery of the body that really gets their attention. Let me try this with you this week, and lucky for you, I won’t even give you an exam on the information.

--Read for 60 minutes and the muscles around your eye will contract more than 10,000 times.
--It requires 17 facial muscles to smile, while 42 face and neck muscles contract when you frown.
--Talk about the value of exercise. A recent study showed that breast cancer patients who walked 3 to 5 hours a week or did an equivalent amount of another exercise lived 50 percent longer than breast cancer patients who were inactive.
--Now this may be more information about the body than you want, but here goes. From the mouth to the anus, your digestive tract is 30 to 40 feet long, depending on your height. The time needed for food to travel through the digestive tract can take up to 36 hours. In just one day, the digestive system secretes almost 3 gallons of chemicals that aid in digestion. Now here’s a good one that will make you think for a moment: In an average human lifetime, the digestive system will process more than 30 tons of food!
--Neurons are tiny electro-chemical transmitters in the brain that receive information from our bodies and send out instructions to muscles and other parts of our bodies through the nervous system. Neurons account for only 2 percent of your body weight but consume up to 25 percent of the energy you produce each day.
--Your brain, on average, weighs about 3 pounds, and it is 85 percent water.
--It is not known exactly why, but women suffer from migraine headaches three times more than men.
--A message from your brain to your foot through the nervous system can travel at up to 170 miles per hour.
--Your heart can beat more than 100,000 times each day, and pumps more than 4,000 gallons of blood through your body every 24 hours.
--With each beat, the heart generates around two watts of electricity.
--Each of us has around 50,000 miles of blood vessels in our body. This fact may help you comprehend this better: Dozens of capillaries, which are microscopic blood vessels, could fit into one human hair.
--Over your lifetime, your heart will pump out over 1 million barrels of blood.
--Forty percent of the time, the first symptom of heart disease is a fatal heart attack. The message here, of course, is don’t wait until you have a symptom to start taking care of yourself.
--Control your stress as much as possible. In a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, first-time heart attack patients who returned to stressful jobs were twice as likely to have a second attack as patients who found their work to be relatively stress free.
--The most recent statistics show that 23.4 percent of men and 18.5 percent of women smoke cigarettes.
--Caffeine is the most widely used mood-altering drug in the world and is used by up to 90 percent of Americans, primarily through soda and coffee.
--Skin weighs around 10 pounds in an average adult. Over your lifetime, your body will shed, on average, 20 pounds of dead skin.
--Seen any hairy people lately? Just look in the mirror, as the average adult has about 5 million individual hairs.
--Let’s end with this one. Your fingernails will grow up to 90 feet over your lifetime. Sure is a good thing we chew and cut those things!

Most of these facts and numbers I have recorded over the years from various sources. I use them as attention “grabbers.” Hopefully you’ve enjoyed them and now know your body just a little better. I’ll share more of these in a future column.
Lewis Bowling teaches at N.C. Central University and Duke University. He is the author of several books on fitness and sports. His website is www.lewisbowling.com. He can be reached at 919-530-6224 and at Lewis_Bowling@yahoo.com.