Select Page

The below is my monthly contribution the the NWTC Newsletter.

We live in a universe defined by mathematical law of such symmetry that to suppose it is merely accidental defies logic. For example, Kepler’s 3rd law of planetary motion tells us that the square of the time it takes for a planet to orbit its sun is directly proportional to the cube of the longest radius of its elliptical orbit. The value of pi is an infinite number that starts with 3.14… Planck’s constant is an infinitesimally small number commonly applied in quantum mechanics. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, and energy is equivalent to mass multiplied by the speed of light, squared. One pound of fat contains 3500 calories. The three macronutrients; carbohydrate, protein, and fat contain four, four, and nine calories per gram respectively.

Our corporeal existence is dependent on a tight range of values: a core temperature of 98.6 +/-5, a serum sodium concentration of 135+/-10, a blood pH of 7.4+/-0.3, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. There are so many physiological “requirements” that I consider everyday begun with opened eyes a wonder. All of these numbers have a meaning, a reason for being what they are that rarely penetrate ones veil of consciousness, remaining forever just a number, a target, a value to be attained. Take, for instance, your blood pressure of around 128/76. Perhaps it’s higher. Perhaps it’s lower. Perhaps you take a medication, or two, or three, to bring it down to a certain number. But, what does that mean? All most people know is that the top number is supposed to be higher than the bottom; and the higher it is, the worse it is; and the lower it is, the better; unless, of course, it’s too low, then that would be bad.

The top number of your blood pressure is the systolic pressure, which is the maximal aortic pressure that results from the contraction of the left lower heart chamber (ventricle) as it sends oxygen-laden blood throughout the body.  Simultaneously with the contraction of the left ventricle is the contraction of the right ventricle, which sends oxygen-deprived blood, returned from the bodily tissues, into the lungs to allow the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen across the cellular membranes of the 300 million or so alveoli of each lung.

The bottom number of your blood pressure is the diastolic pressure, which is the lowest pressure in the aorta that occurs just before the ventricle contracts again a second or so later. The difference between the upper and lower number, in our example 52 (128-76), is called the pulse pressure, and the time that the pressure takes to fall from 128 to 76 comprises the time that the heart has to re-fill with blood to eject with the next heartbeat, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on, and so on, for a lifetime…lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub.

A heart contracts, blood is ejected into the aorta at 128mm Hg, the arteries elastic walls expand, decreasing the resistance to flow, and the blood courses throughout the body as the pressure rapidly decreases to 76 mm Hg in the aorta. Out in the venous system, the pressure approaches zero as it is ultimately returned to the right side of the heart. Knowing this, it is easy to understand the significance of plaque build-up in the arteries, which results in constriction of flow, loss of elasticity, and increased resistance, which makes the heart work harder and decreases the flow of oxygen to the tissues that need it. And knowing this, it is easy to understand the significance of obesity, which predisposes one to the development of the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and the associated cardiovascular disease, leading of course to high numbers.

And that’s just your blood pressure!

So, I can tell you that this number means that; that number means this; and that all life came from the ancient seas, from a slimy green unicellular organism washed one day upon an ancient shore; but I can only tell you so much before I would be forced to say something along the lines of…”and then He said, ‘Let there be light’.”