Heart Smarts 101-The Anatomy of Your Heart

Heart Anatomy

At Close the Gap, we spend a lot of time educating people about their risk factors  for heart disease and how to prevent it.  But do you really understand your heart — what it does, how it works? Let's take this opportunity to go back to the basics.

What Does the Heart Do?

Located slightly to the left of center in your chest, the heart is a muscle about the size of a closed fist. It usually beats about 60-100 times per minute. With each beat, your heart contracts and pushes blood throughout your body, via blood vessels. And that's a pretty important job. None of your tissues or organs could survive without the oxygen and nutrients carried by your blood.

You might not think of your heart as a muscle that gets a big workout, but it does. Each day, a healthy adult heart:

  • Pumps about 1,900 gallons (7,200 liters) of blood.
  • Beats 100,000 times.
  • Gets only a fraction of a second to rest between each beat!

Parts of the Heart

There are many elements to your heart, inside and outside the organ itself. Here's a quick overview of the different parts of the heart.

  • Chambers: The inside of your heart is divided into four sections, or chambers. The four chambers are right atrium, right ventricle, left atrium, and left ventricle. Each chamber is like a separate room that has valves (like doors), which control blood flow in the heart.
  • Heart Valves: Your heart has four valves that act like doors, opening to allow blood to flow out of a heart chamber, and then closing to stop the flow. There are four heart valves: two in the atria (upper chambers) and two in the ventricles (lower chambers).
  • Circulatory System: Your circulatory system continuously sends oxygen-rich blood to all parts of your body. It also returns oxygen-poor blood to the lungs. The circulatory system consists of your heart, blood vessels and lungs.
  • Blood Vessels: Your blood vessels are a vast network of tubes that carry and "drop off" oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. The blood vessels then "pick up" waste products like carbon dioxide and return the oxygen-poor blood to the heart and lungs to start the cycle over. Blood vessels include arteries, capillaries, and veins.
  • Electrical System: The electrical system is responsible for the heart contracting, or beating. Your heart's electrical system includes a network of pathways, similar to the electrical wiring in your home. The pathways carry electrical signals through your heart. As the signals travel through your heart tissue, they cause your heart to contract.

Source content for this article was provided by Heartistry, a patient education resource from Boston Scientific. Learn even more about your heart — and the conditions that affect it — at www.heartistryforme.com.

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