The heart and its beat are what keeps us alive. It happens to be the hardest working muscle in the human body. At an average rate of 80 times a minute, the heart beats about 115,000 times every day, or in a year, about 42 million times. A normal healthy heart beat is 60 to 100 beats per minute, or BPM.
The job of the heart in the cardiovascular system is to pump and circulate oxygen and nutrient filled blood to the body’s organs, tissues, and cells through the passage of blood vessels. In other words, blood is carried from your heart to the rest of your body through a complex network of parts essential to the hearts function. The blood vessels that supply blood to the heart are called coronary arteries and coronary veins. The arteries transport blood from the heart to other parts of the body, and the veins carry the blood back to the heart.
The heart is a muscular organ (myocardium) located between your lungs and in the middle of your chest, slightly to the left of your sternum (breastbone). The anatomy of the heart is very strong, yet intricate. It is made up of four chambers, consisting of the right atrium, left atrium, right ventricle, and left ventricle. An inner muscular wall called the septum divides the heart into two halves.
There are valves in the heart between the right atrium and right ventricle, and the left atrium and left ventricle, where the blood leaves the heart through the arteries. These valves ensure that blood flows correctly in the right direction, and that it does not flow backwards into the heart.
The right and left sides of the heart, each have two chambers called the atria, as well as two ventricles and its own pump system, called the circulatory system. The circulatory system is a major part of how the heart functions. The cardiovascular system has two different methods of circulating blood called circulatory paths. These two paths are called pulmonary circulation and systemic circulation.
The upper two chambers of the heart are called the atrium. Blood reenters the heart through the atrium. In other words, the atrium receive blood coming back to the heart from blood vessels. The lower two chambers of the heart are known as the ventricles. These ventricles are responsible for collecting blood from the atrium, and then pumping deoxygenated blood out of the heart, removing any waste and carbon dioxide.
How the Blood Flows:
Pulmonary circulation is the movement of blood away from the heart to the lungs for oxygenation, then oxygenated blood is returned back to the heart. During pulmonary circulation, there is a relationship between just the heart and lungs. When the two atria receive blood, the heart muscle contracts, and then pumps blood to the ventricles.
Blood is pumped into the right ventricle via the tricuspid valve, a flap of connective tissue which prevents blood from flowing into the right ventricle. After this valve fills with blood, from the right ventricle, blood is pumped into the pulmonary artery, which then splits or branches into three smaller arteries within the lungs. Within the lungs, the blood travels through the alveoli, the tiny air sacs or spaces in the lungs. Here, a gas reaction or exchange occurs, where carbon dioxide and waste is removed, and oxygen is added to the blood, allowing blood to circulate properly, and the heart to beat and function normally.
During systemic circulation, blood is moved away from the heart, allowing it to flow into the body via a network of veins, in order to provide other tissues and organs throughout the body with oxygenated blood and nutrients it needs, and deoxygenated blood is returned back to the heart. During this particular cycle, the oxygen and nutrient-rich blood empties deoxygenated blood from the lungs into the right via a collection of veins called the coronary sinus (collects and drains the deoxygenated blood from the heart), and then through the two venae cavae, the superior vena cava (SVC) and inferior vena cava.
Blood is moved away from the heart and into the lungs for nutrients and oxygenation, and then the deoxygenated blood flows back into the heart again. The oxygenated blood is then pumped through the mitral valve into the left ventricle. From the left ventricle, blood is pumped through the aortic valve and into the aorta, which is the body’s largest and main artery, responsible for supplying oxygenated blood to the circulatory system.
When the blood in the pulmonary circulation circuit reaches the lungs, it gets rid of carbon dioxide and picks up oxygen. Once blood has moved around either the systemic or pulmonary circulatory system, it passes through the atria and ventricles of the heart and on into the other circulatory system called systemic circulation.
Your heart is a vital organ that keeps your body functioning. Unfortunately, many people don’t treat it that way. They may not realize that their daily habits and lifestyle can overwork and damage their heart. Therefore, if you think or sense that you may have a problem with your heart, it is important to not wait, and visit your cardiologist.
Heart tests can be very helpful in finding out if a person may be suffering from a heart issue, and if so, appropriate treatment can be administered accordingly. Symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or irregular heartbeats can be signs of serious heart issues that can be identified by various tests such as an echocardiogram.
An echocardiogram, otherwise known as an echo, is a type of diagnostic imaging that uses ultrasound technology. This test uses sound waves that are high-pitched, and picked up by a device called a transducer. The transducer picks up the echoes of these sound waves in your heart. These echoes are transferred into live moving pictures of your heart on a video screen, allowing your doctor to get a closer look inside the heart, and make an accurate diagnosis. There are different types of echocardiograms, but the main point is to:
- Detect abnormal heart sounds (murmurs)
- Enlarged heart
- Irregular heartbeat
- Check the thickness and movement of the heart wall
- Look at the heart valves and check how well they work
- Measure the size and shape of the heart’s four chambers
- Check the ability of your heart chambers to pump blood, in other words, check how well your heart is performing
- Detect any form of heart disease, or defects
- Look for blood clots and tumors
To learn more about what your heart is trying to tell you, and if you may need an echocardiogram, call SC Internal Medicine Associates and Rehabilitation at (803) 749-1111 to make an appointment.