Categories: Cardiology

Understanding the Heart

The heart is one of the most vital organs of our body. It’s the organ in the middle of our circulation system, pumping blood around the body as it beats. The blood sends oxygen and nutrients to the body and carries away unwanted carbon dioxide and waste materials. The heart is a major organ of the cardiovascular system, that includes the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the body and back to it.

The heart is situated underneath the rib cage, to the center of the chest and between the lungs. It is conical in shape with its end pointing down to the left and weighs around 298 grams or 10.5 ounces. The heart is situated with 75% of it on the left side of the chest and the remaining on to the right. As it is a muscular pump, it comprises of four chambers and valves that do its functioning of pumping blood from the heart to the body and back. The top two chambers of the heart are known as atria, while the bottom two are known as ventricles. Thus, the right side of the heart consists of the right atrium and right ventricle and the left side comprises of the left atrium and left ventricle. The wall of muscle that separates the two sides is called septum. The atria and ventricles work together, contracting and relaxing to pump blood out of the heart and back again to it.

The major role of our heart is to pump the oxygen and nutrient-rich blood into the tissues and other parts of the body through the arteries. The blood pumping cycle of the heart is called the cardiac cycle. Our heart is considered as the hardest working muscle of our body, on average a normal human heartbeat is close to 72-80 beats/minute i.e. 4,800 times/hour, 115,200 times/day, 42,048,000 times per/year. If the person lives for 80 years then its 3 billion times/lifetime. What a muscle indeed! In a proper circulation, the oxygen-free blood enters the right side of the heart through the right atrium and then through the right ventricle into the lungs for oxygen refill and release of carbon dioxide. The fresh oxygen-rich blood is then processed to the other parts of the body through the left chambers of the heart for redistribution. About 5.6 liters of blood circulate the body.

Interesting Facts about the Heart:

  • The average heart size is equal to the fist of an adult
  • A heart beats about 100,000 times each day
  • There are around 100,000 miles of blood vessels in the body
  • A heart starts beating 4 weeks after conception
  • A heart pumps around 2000 gallons of blood every day
  • The heart can function without a brain or a body. It has its own electrical system known as the cardiac conduction system that controls the rhythm of the heart
  • Even after the person is brain dead or the heart is removed, the heart continues to beat as long as it has oxygen
  • The fairy fly (wasp) has the smallest heart of any living creature and in mammals, whales have the largest heart
  • On average a man’s heart is 2 ounces heavier than a woman’s heart
  • A woman’s heart beats slightly faster than a man’s heart
  • The first open-heart surgery occurred in 1893 performed by Daniel Hale Williams in the United States
  • A newborn’s heart rate is around 70 to 190 beats per minute while an average adult has a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute

A healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle are very important in maintaining the well-being of the heart. Often due to stress, lack of exercise, unhealthy dietary habits lead to conditions like heart attacks, heart failures, cardiovascular diseases, etc. that impact the heart and the quality of life. Always maintain a healthy heart for a healthy life.

Dr. Shanmukh Hiremath, Sr. Consultant Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeon, SDM Narayana Heart Centre, Dharwad

Narayana Health

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