Understanding How the Heart Works

June 20, 2014Comments Off on Understanding How the Heart Works

The heart is considered to be one of the major organs in the human body. Aside from this “title”, the heart is also known as the only organ in the body that has a clump of self-starting cells. Now, while most people are aware of how important the function of the heart is, very few are actually knowledgeable about its inner workings. If you are one of these people, then a knowledge of how the heart actually works might prove to be useful especially if you or someone you know has a high risk for Sudden Cardiac Arrest or Heart Attack.

A normal heart is able to pump about 70 times per minute which would roughly translate to about a hundred thousand times per day. This is necessary in order to ensure that all the other organs in the body are able to receive their needed oxygen supply. Keep in mind that, if an organ is unable to receive sufficient oxygen, there is a great risk for tissue necrosis, or tissue death. If left on its own, tissue necrosis can lead to death in the patient. Now, this blood primarily passes through three different kinds of blood vessels:

  • Arteries
  • Capillaries
  • Veins

Arteries are the ones responsible for carrying the oxygen-rich blood from the heart into the various organs. The farther they are form the heart, the smaller in size they get. On the other hand, veins are the ones responsible for bringing the blood to the heart. Since the blood that the veins carry come from the various organs already, these typically have depleted oxygen content. Now, the capillaries are the ones that connect the two. Their walls are semi-permeable and allow the passage of oxygen and carbon dioxide as well as other wastes and nutrients to and from the organs. The heart itself is in need of oxygen in order to continue functioning. This is the reason why you would see a number of coronary arteries on the walls of the heart.

While many people are aware that the heart has four chambers, very few actually know what each one does. The top chambers, known as the atria are the ones responsible for receiving blood from the veins. The lower chambers, on the other hand, are known as the ventricles and are responsible for sending of the blood through the arteries. When the blood passes from one chamber to the next, it goes through a flap of skin known as “valves”. There are four valves in a human heart – the mitral valve, the tricuspid valve, the aortic valve, and the pulmonary valve. These valves are responsible for ensuring that the blood does not flow back to the chamber where it came from. Of the four valves, it is only the mitral valve that has two cusps as the rest have three.

Given this, heart problems usually happen when the walls of the heart or the blood vessels themselves have grown weak. Heart problems can also occur when it is unable to pump rhythmically. Keep in mind that when a heart skips a beat, precious oxygen does not get to the intended organs on time. It is in this situation that a Sudden Cardiac Arrest can take place. When that happens, a responder would need to administer CPR as soon as possible.