Human Anatomy – Heart

human-anatomy-heartYour heart is the most important muscle in the body. The center of the circulatory or cardiovascular system, the heart delivers nourishing blood wherever it is needed, via a network of veins and arteries.

Only the size of a fist, the heart is virtually a pump for blood. To that end, the heart – which is located just left of the breastbone – has two sides, each with a pair of chambers.

Oxygenated blood from the lungs enters the heart through its left side, in the chamber called the left atrium. It then passes through the heart’s strongest chamber, the left ventricle, which controls the body’s blood pressure. With its forceful pumps, the left ventricle pumps blood to the entire body, via arteries.

From the body, blood travels through veins towards the right side of the heart. The right atrium accommodates the blood, before pumping it to the right ventricle. Afterwards, the right ventricle pumps the blood towards the lungs, where it is infused with oxygen.

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Every heartbeat happens this way; first, blood fills the heart, and then the organ contracts to squeeze it out. The heart, which is an involuntary muscle, beats 24 hours a day.

Heart diseases and conditions

When the heart ceases to function completely, you die. An abrupt loss of heart function, called cardiac arrest, may be caused by a wide gamut of conditions. Not the least among them is cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular or heart disease takes many forms. One of its most dangerous incarnations is coronary artery disease, which puts you at risk for a myocardial infarction or heart attack.

This disease starts when plaques, formed by cholesterol, accumulate in the arteries, constricting them. Eventually, the constriction leads to blood clotting, before turning into a full-blown blockage, which causes a heart attack. Moreover, if the blood clotting spreads to the lungs, pulmonary embolism would certainly follow.

Constricted coronary arteries can lead to angina pectoris, a condition characterized by chest pains when doing physical activity. An angina pectoris that occurs even when you’re not exerting is termed “unstable” and may lead to a heart attack, if not cardiac arrest.

Vulnerable as it is vital, the heart is also open wide to inflammation. When its muscle is inflamed, often due to viruses, the heart is said to suffer from myocarditis. When the pericardium or its lining is inflamed, the heart is said to have pericarditis. Pericarditis may progress into pericardial effusion, when fluid builds up in the inflamed pericardium.

Sometimes, the muscle of the heart may abnormally expand, grow thicker, or become stiff. This condition, known as cardiomyopathy, impairs the organ’s blood-pumping function. You suffer from a congestive heart failure from this.

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Heart valve disease, meanwhile, occurs when the valves between the chambers becomes impaired. One of these, the mitral valve, tends to go backwards due to the force of blood. The valves, in general, are prone to inflammation or endocarditis, which may also cause congestive heart failure.

There are many cases when the heart deviates from its normal rhythm because its electrical activity is altered. This condition, known as dysrhythmia or arrhythmia, can be life-threatening. One of the most common arrhythmias is atrial fibrillation.

Heard through a doctor’s stethoscope, the heart often emits a “murmur” suggestive of heart disease.

Treating heart conditions

Exercise, if there is any healthy lifestyle tip you must follow to keep a healthy heart. Plan your exercise with your doctor though, if you have cardiovascular concerns.

If things get awry, i.e. the patient undergoes cardiac arrest, the doctor uses an automated external defibrillator (AED). An AED sends electric shocks to the heart, in hopes of reviving the patient.

A similar device may be implanted surgically in arrhythmia-prone patients. This device, called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), can also dispatch electrical shocks to the heart.

In the same way, the surgeon may implant a pacemaker in the patient. This device makes the heart beat properly by giving it an electric current time and again.

A number of procedures ca be done while doing cardiac catheterization, a test which checks for blockages in the coronary arteries. For instance, the doctor can perform angioplasty (also known as percutaneous coronary intervention or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty) to prevent heart attacks. In this procedure, the doctor blows up a balloon within a narrowed coronary artery to return it to its normal width. If necessary, the doctor may also leave a metal stent to further widen the artery.

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If stenting is impossible, the doctor may take to drugs instead. In the procedure called thrombolysis, the doctor may intravenously inject the patient with drugs designed to dissolve blood clots. This method can also abort heart attacks.

Notwithstanding its triteness, aspirin is actually a potent drug against blood clotting. Clopidogrel, on the other hand, is recommended for patients implanted with stents.

Statins are medicines that lessen your risk for heart attacks by reducing cholesterol and lipids in the blood. If you have already experienced a heart attack, you may take angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors to normalize your blood pressure.

Out in the market are a plethora of medicines made to stabilize heart rhythm, helping manage dysrhythmias. Among them are beta-blockers, which are designed to reduce the heart rate.

Commonly used to compel urination, diuretics are also used to alleviate heart failure.

Tests for heart conditions

An ECG or electrocardiogram checks the electrical impulses of the heart, making it a very effective test for heart ailments. Even better, an echocardiogram or heart ultrasound provides detailed images of the organ, giving insights about its current pumping capacity among others.

In diagnosing coronary artery diseases, the doctor may request a cardiac stress test. With this test, you are usually made to run on a treadmill, with the purpose of forcing your heart to pump to its full capacity.

If arrhythmia is suspected instead, the doctor may make the patient wear a Holter monitor for 24 hours straight. During this period, the monitor gauges the rhythm of the heart. If the patient is suspected of infrequent arrhythmia, the doctor may recommend the more portable event monitor.

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5 Responses

  1. healy says:

    I am a smoker and I know what’s the effect of it. I’m thinking about my hearts in a far more serious way. I’m learning that a healthful low-fat diet, a regular exercise program, and finding ways to deal with life’s stresses boost heart health.

  2. The heart is such a crucial cog in the body. There are a number of things you can do to maintain good health (heart and general health). Please keep regular checkups and see a medical professional if you have any questions!

    Great post!

  3. Colleen says:

    I think what you said about planning your exercise with a doctor or health professional can really make a difference. But if you can’t get to a doctor, it probably won’t hurt to walk a little for 10 minutes after each meal – in no time you will see some improvement in heart conditions.

  4. Hello doc,
    very nice and very informative post, written in an easy to understand way. I am more serious about my heart now, as 2 years back, my uncle got a heart attack, and his 1 valve had closed, from that day, he is on medicines. So we know what is the result of avoiding our own selves, or massive cholesterol intake.

  5. Buy Retin A says:

    Very nice article, good work. Heart is the main part of our body, but unfortunately, we usually avoid minor problems, which turn into major attacks, and failures. I am much curious about my health, and found a great first aid technique just some days before. If you are away from medical help, and suddenly get chest pain, that radiates to your left arm, then it may be a heart attack, just cough repeatedly and vigorously. Take deep breath before every cough. This deep breath gets oxygen to lungs and coughing keeps blood circulation alive.”

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