How your heart works

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How your heart works
How your heart works

These days with extreme heat and rainstorms, our hearts are challenged. If we do not take care, especially the elderly, we may be risking heart failure Ever¬yone knows that the heart is a vital organ. We cannot live without our heart. However, when you get right down to it, the heart is just a pump. A complex and important one, yes, but still just a pump. As with all other pumps it can become clogged, break down and need repair. This is why it is critical that we know how the heart works. With a little knowledge about your heart and what is good or bad for it, you can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Almost 2,000 Americans die of heart disease each day. That is one death every 44 seconds. The good news is that the death rate from heart disease has been steadily decreasing. Unfortunately, heart disease still causes sudden death and many people die before even reaching the hospital. When the heart muscle contracts or beats (called systole), it pumps blood out of the heart. The heart contracts in two stages. In the first stage, the right and left atria contract at the same time, pumping blood to the right and left ventricles. Then the ventricles contract together to propel blood out of the heart. Then the heart muscle relaxes (called diastole) before the next heartbeat. This allows blood to fill up the heart again.The right and left sides of the heart have separate functions.

The right side of the heart collects oxygen-poor blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs where it picks up oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. The left side of the heart then collects oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it to the body so that the cells throughout your body have the oxygen they need to function properly. Blood Supply Coronary arteries are the ones that we try to keep clear by eating a healthy diet.

If coronary arteries are blocked a heart attack results.The heart, just like any other organ, requires blood to supply it with oxygen and other nutrients so that it can do its work. The heart does not extract oxygen and other nutrients from the blood flowing inside it — it gets its blood from coronary arteries that eventually carry blood within the heart muscle. Approximately 4 percent to 5 percent of the blood output of the heart goes to the coronary arteries (7 ½ ounces/ minute or 225 ml/min).There are two main coronary arteries – The left main coronary artery and the right coronary artery which arise from the aorta. The left main coronary artery divides into the left anterior descending branch and the left circumflex arteries Each artery supplies blood to different parts of the heart muscle and the electrical system.The heart also has veins that collect oxygen-poor blood from the heart muscle. Most of the major veins of the heart (great cardiac vein, small cardiac vein, middle cardiac vein, posterior vein of the left ventricle, and oblique vein of the left atrium) drain into the coronary sinus which opens into the right atrium.Coronary artery disease is caused by a blockage in one of the coronary arteries. When a coronary artery is partially blocked, that artery cannot supply enough blood to the heart muscle to meet its needs during exertion. When someone with coronary artery disease exerts himself or herself, it causes chest pain. This is due to lack of blood and oxygen to that part of the heart muscle and is called angina. If the obstruction worsens (more frequent angina episodes, with less exertion) a condition called unstable angina can occur.

A heart attack happens when a coronary artery is completely blocked and no blood or oxygen is getting to the heart muscle served by that artery. This also causes chest pain and causes death to the heart muscle served by that artery. The theory that women don’t withstand trauma or stress as well as men doesn’t hold much water when reanalyzing the range of broken heart syndrome triggers. It turns out that the condition, probably thanks to its catchy nickname, has been overblown in media reports. Certainly, there have been cases of left ventricles rebelling in response to death and funerals, but it’s more often related to physical dysfunctions, including stroke, acute respiratory failure, burn injuries and poisoning [source: Derrick].

Data from Johns Hopkins University found correlations between emotional loss and broken heart syndrome in only 40 percent of affected patients Studies of long-term spouses dying in quick succession also contradict the notion that females are biologically less fit to cope with loss. Statistically, widowers are more likely to succumb following their wives’ deaths, whereas widows tend to press on longer .For all of its doom and gloom, there is a silver lining to broken heart syndrome: It’s seldom fatal.

Although heart complications occur in approximately 19 percent of cases, the mortality rate for broken heart syndrome rests between 1 and 3 percent [source: Derrick]. As noted on the previous page, an expanded left ventricle will typically return to its normal size, as in the case of Dorothy Lee, and patients often reach full recovery in as little as a week — not unlike the metaphorical broken heart that in time, though scarred, will heal. Courtesy of : HowStuffWorks – Dr. Carl Bianco –

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