Home Mind Science and Facts 1 Billion Heartbeats - The length of a lifetime.
1 Billion Heartbeats - The length of a lifetime. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Taty Sena   

So the length of a lifetime... 1 billion heartbeats. Not a human life alone, apparently the lifespan of all amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles can be counted in number of heartbeats, and that number is about 1 billion.
How can that be, you say? Humans live in average 65 years, hamsters in average 3 years and Artic whales as many as 150 years, but the number of heartbeats stay the same.
Because whales can have as few as 10 heartbeats a minute and hamsters as many as 450, during a lifespan the number of beats averages, still, at about 1 billion.

At the rate of 70 beats per minute, humans shouldn't be living past young adulthood, and that what true for most of our history and is still the case for many parts of the world, like Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho in Africa, with life spans between 33 and 35 years. Developments in health treatments and sanitation have expended that to about twice as much, but the natural connection remains intact.
Girl heart
 A little bit of the science behind it:

These measurements started in the 1930s, work of Swiss-born chemist Max Kleiber. 
The Kleiber Ratio determines that for every creature, the amount of energy burned per unit of weight is proportional to that animals mass raised to the three-quarters power. Symbolically: if q0 is the animal's metabolic rate, and M the animal's mass, then Kleiber's law states that q0 ~ M3/4. 

Thus a cat, having a mass 100 times that of a mouse, will have a metabolism roughly 31 times greater than that of a mouse. 
Kleiber Ratio’s is universal: “There’s this exquisite interconnectivity.  All the structures have different forms and functions, but all of them adhere to the same scaling pattern.”  Capillaries grow into veins and arteries according to the same three-quarter-power scale.  So also do neural fibers by becoming whole nerves then becoming nerve bindles.  From the mitochondria to the cell to the blue whale, the rule holds through twenty-seven orders of magnitude. 

What about exercise and stress?

Now, if the numbers are right, then by increasing our exercise and consequently our heart rate, we would be reducing our life span, but we know that the opposite is true. Why is that?

Let's say you ran a marathon with a heart rate of probably around 150 bpm for the 6 hours it takes to run 26 miles, so in a quarter of a day you'd have used up just over a half a day's worth of heartbeats! Then why exercise?
Let's say you started running three years ago with an average heartrate of 72 bpm. Let’s assume that you lived your first 28 years at that heart rate, which means you've used up 1.06 billion of your life’s heartbeats in that span. Now let’s assume that you keep exercising for the rest of your life and that being in good shape you bring your heart rate to 56 bpm, so if you keep that up for the remaining 1.94 billion heart beats you would live another 69 years to the age of 94 which is an increase in lifespan of about 15 years. Each year exercising 3 to 4 times a week costs you one week of heartbeats, but the improved fitness adds about 13 weeks to you life expectancy.

Now, your heart rate can also be increased by stress, without any of the benefits of exercise and meditation can dramatically decrease the number of used beats per minute.

So what does that mean?

What does this connection mean? Why is that apparently built into the genes of all mammals? How can this play into lifestyle, personal choices, peace of mind?
The answer might lie in the creation and purpose of life itself...



-2 #7 Den 2013-05-16 10:52
I exercised more to lose weight , I don't really care about flies, sharks and whales and aliens. I do care that I weigh less now and my heart is stronger.
+3 #6 gene 2012-09-20 03:32
macca.. I liked what you said. I've thought a lot about that myself. Time is relative depending on our velocity with respect to the velocity of another observer. What if an there was an alien that lived on a earth like planet 1000s of light years away and had blood pumping through its system at 1000s of beats per second. I wonder what time would be like for this creature. Hamsters have heartbeats of 450 beats per minute according to this article, so maybe the rate of blood flow could have something to do with our perception of time with respect to someone elses. On here it also said that whales hearts beat 10 times per minute, and when you hear them make noises it always sounds like it's in slow motion to us. Wouldn't it be cool if we listened to the noises they make to each other at 6 or 7 times regular speed. Anyway I know there isn't a lot of scientific rigor in this but it makes for a nice philosophy discussion doesn't it?
+2 #5 alex 2012-08-22 13:20
What about people with artificial hearts? 0.o
+1 #4 Craig 2012-08-14 13:48
macca the fly is faster than usual because flies have to be in order to live. Any fly that is slow in that case would be killed and unable to reproduce its slow genes. Large animals like sharks and fish can be just as quick it depends on their level of evolution in their nervous system. The perception of time itself its highly debatable i would think.
+1 #3 Mark 2012-01-05 09:36
@Mike: There is almost certainly no relation between neural synapse firings and . Think about the shortest-lived animals: Insects, rodents, all the small creatures with small brains (and therefore less neural firing). Conversely, the longest-lived creatures also tend to have the largest brains. Whales, for example; or humans.

@Macca: We have no way of measuring the perceived speed of another animal's life. That's a question that will probably never be answerable, similar to "Do you see the color green the same way I do." In fact, there's no real evidence to suggest that less mentally complex animals such as flies even perceive their own lifetimes at all. Insects are almost 100% instinct driven, and show no signs of self-awareness.
+3 #2 macca 2011-09-21 23:00
I have read that the relative average heart beat connection makes it possible for differences in the perception of time. It allows, for example, a fly to easily evade an attempt on its life by human hand clap as it perceives the action as occuring much more slowly than the human does. So the faster your heart beats, the slower time p[censored]es in relation to those whose hearts beat slower. Essentially, apparently, all creatures perceive their (average) life span as lasting as long as the next. Is this correct?
+2 #1 mike 2011-02-21 21:55
I wonder if there is also a relation between the number of neural synapse fireings and lifespan.... any thoughts

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