Heart Diseases, Functions and Structure
A simple answer to "What is heart" is that it is the main organ of our body's circulatory system, pumping blood throughout the body. It is a muscular pump which contracts at regular intervals in order to squeeze the blood through it into the blood vessels. There are four chambers in the heart. The right chambers contain unclean, that is deoxygenated, blood. On the other hand, the left chambers contain clean, that is oxygenated, blood.
The heart is made up of connective tissue and cardiac muscle. The latter is a type of involuntary muscle, that is, it contracts and relaxes on its own without the application of force by us. Our heart is a delicate organ which is protected by the rib cage.
Functions of Heart
The heart functions involve the supply of oxygenated blood to all parts of the body. The circulatory system consists of three main types of blood vessels: arteries, veins and capillaries. Arteries carry oxygenated blood and distribute it to different parts of the body. On the other hand, the veins receive unclean blood, containing carbon dioxide and waste products, from the body parts and take it back to the heart.
The heart contains both the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. It is its job to keep both of them separate in order to avoid contamination of the pure blood. The right chambers of the heart receive deoxygenated blood from the veins. This blood is transported to the lungs to receive oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide. This oxygenated blood is then transported back to the heart from where it is transported to all the body parts through the arteries.
How Heart Works?
In order to understand how the heart works, it is important to know about its important parts. There are four chambers in the heart; the top chambers are known as atriums while the chambers below them are called ventricles. The flow of blood into and out of the heart is controlled by four valves. A double walled membrane, the pericardium, separates the right and left chambers, preventing deoxygenated and oxygenated blood from mixing up.
Deoxygenated blood enters the heart into the right atrium. The valve present between the right atrium and the right ventricle is called the tricuspid valve. It opens to let the blood flow into the right ventricle. The valve then closes to prevent the backward flow of blood. This deoxygenated blood enters the pulmonary artery and is transported to the lungs to replenish its oxygen content. This oxygen rich blood is then sent back to the heart through the pulmonary vein. The right atrium receives this oxygenated blood. The mitral valve between the right atrium and the right ventricle opens to let the blood flow into the right ventricle. It then closes to prevent the backward flow of blood. Finally, the blood is pumped into the aorta from where it is distributed to the rest of the body through the arteries.
Interesting Facts about Heart
- The average rate of our heart beat is 72 times per minute. In one day, the heart beats a hundred thousand times.
- An average heart has the ability to pump around two thousand gallons of blood throughout the body every day.
- The heart can continue to beat for a while even if it is separated from the body as long as there is a supply of oxygen.
- The heart muscles are able to contract due to electrical impulses.
Diseases of the Heart
Coronary Artery Disease
The blood vessels which transport blood to the heart become narrow due to a deposition of plaque, forcing the heart to work harder. As a result, the heart muscles gradually become weak. This is a fatal disease which is the result of a high blood cholesterol level.
It is one of most dangerous heart diseases. More commonly known as heart attack, myocardial infarction may lead to death on the spot if prompt medical help is not received. A heart attack more commonly occurs in patients who are already suffering from coronary artery disease. The flow of blood to the heart is either reduced or completely blocked, depriving the heart cells of oxygen.
Congestive Heart Failure
It is a common heart disease which develops as a result of coronary artery disease or a heart attack experienced by the patient. The heart of the patient is damaged and is unable to perform its function up to its full capacity. As a result, insufficient blood is pumped and the body's oxygen requirements are not fulfilled. The patients experience fatigue and shortness of breath.