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A normal heart is a strong muscular pump. It weighs between 200 to 425 grams (7 and 15 ounces) and is a little larger than the size of your fist. During an average lifetime, the human heart will beat more than 2.5 billion times. The average heart beats about 100,000 times each day and pumps about 7,200 liters (1,900 gallons) of blood in a day. Your heart sits between your lungs in the middle of your chest, behind and slightly to the left of your breastbone. A double-layered membrane called the pericardium surrounds your heart like a sac. Blood loaded with oxygen comes from your lungs and enters your heart. To function, your heart needs a continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients, which it gets from the blood that is pumped through the coronary arteries.
Your heart and circulatory system make up your cardiovascular system. Your heart pumps blood to the organs, tissues, and cells of your body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to every cell and removing carbon dioxide and waste products made by those cells. Oxygen-rich blood is carried from your heart to the rest of your body through a complex network of arteries, arterioles and capillaries. Oxygen-poor blood is carried back to your heart through veins.
YOUR GUIDE TO A Healthy Heart
The left ventricle is the largest and strongest chamber in your heart. It can push blood through the aortic valve into your entire body. The right two chambers of your heart (right atrium and right ventricle) pump blood from the heart to the lungs, so blood cells can pick up a fresh load of oxygen in exchange for the wastes they've collected during their trip around the body. The oxygen-rich blood returns to the left chambers of the heart (left atrium and left ventricle), which then pump it around the rest of the body. As the heart muscle relaxes, the two top chambers (the atria) fill with blood. Then, these chambers contract, squeezing blood down into the ventricles. The ventricles then contract, sending blood flowing out of the heart either to the lungs or throughout the body.
What happens during a heartbeat
In a normal heart, the electrical impulse that starts the heartbeat begins in a group of cells called the sinus node (or the SA node for short), in the right atrium. The SA node is often called the pacemaker of the heart. It works something like the spark plug in a car engine, producing the electrical signals that make the heart pump. The SA node generates a number of signals each minute in response to the body's needs. The resting heart rate is usually about 60 to 80 beats per minute. After a burst of electricity is generated, it spreads out through the top half of the heart (the atria), almost like ripples spreading out from a stone dropped into a pond. This signal makes the upper chambers or atria contract. As they do, the blood inside them is squeezed out into the lower chambers of the heart the ventricles.
Meanwhile the electrical signal that made the atria contract has reached the AV (atrio-ventricular) node, in the lower part of the right atrium. The AV node is the electrical connection between the atria and the ventricles. It holds the electrical signal for a moment, like a relay station, so the blood from the atria can be pumped into the ventricles. Then, it sends the signal to the lower chambers
of the heart, making them contract. As the ventricles contract, they send blood pumping out with great force. The electrical signal has now passed through the upper and lower chambers of the heart, making them contract. This is one heartbeat. This electrical activity produces electrical waves that can be measured using a heart test called an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).
Heart Disease: Why Should You Care?
If you're like many people, you may think of heart disease as a problem that happens to other folks. I feel fine, you may think, so I have nothing to worry about. If you're a woman, you may also believe that being female protects you from heart disease. If you're a man, you may think you're not old enough to have a serious heart condition. Wrong on all counts. In the India, heart disease is the #1 killer of both women and men. It affects many people at midlife, as well as in old age. It also can happen to those who feel fine.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HEART DISEASE
What Is Heart Disease?
Coronary heart disease often simply called heart disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed due to a buildup of plaque on the arteries' inner walls. Plaque is the accumulation of fat, cholesterol, and other substances. As plaque continues to build up in the arteries, blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced. Heart disease can lead to a heart attack. A heart attack happens when an artery becomes totally blocked with plaque, preventing vital oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart muscle . A heart attack can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle. Heart disease is one of several cardiovascular diseases, which are disorders of the heart and blood vessel system. Other cardiovascular diseases include stroke, high blood pressure, and rheumatic heart disease. Some people aren't too concerned about heart disease because they think it can be cured with surgery. This is a myth. Heart disease is a lifelong condition: Once you get it, you'll always have it. It's true that procedures such as angioplasty and bypass surgery can help blood and oxygen flow more easily to the heart. What's more, the condition of your blood vessels will steadily worsen unless you make changes in your daily habits and control your risk factors. Many people die of complications from heart disease, or become permanently disabled. That's why it is so vital to take action to prevent this disease.
Who Is at Risk?
Risk factors are conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop a disease. They can also increase the chances that an existing disease will get worse. Important risk factors for heart disease that you can do something about are cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight, physical inactivity, and diabetes. Recent research shows that more than 95 percent of those who die from heart disease have at least one of these major risk factors. Certain risk factors, such as getting older, can't be changed. After menopause, women are more likely to develop heart disease. For both women and men, middle age is a time of increasing risk because people are more likely to develop heart disease risk factors during this stage of life. Family history of early heart disease is another risk factor that can't be changed. If your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55, or if your mother or sister had one before age 65, you are more likely to get heart disease. While certain risk factors cannot be changed, it is important to realize that you do have control over many others. Regardless of your age or family history, you can take important steps to lower your risk of heart disease.
How Risk Works
It may be tempting to believe that doing just one healthy thing will take care of your heart disease risk. For example, you may hope that if you walk or swim regularly, you can still eat a lot of fatty foods and stay fairly healthy. Not true. To protect your heart, it is vital to make changes that address each and every risk factor you have. You can make the changes gradually, one at a time. But making them is very important. While each risk factor increases your risk of heart disease, having more than one risk factor is especially serious. That's because risk factors tend to gang up and worsen each other's effects. For example, if you have high blood cholesterol and you smoke, your heart disease risk increases enormously. The message is clear: You need to take heart disease risk seriously, and the best time to reduce that risk is now
What's Your Risk?
The first step toward heart health is becoming aware of your own personal risk for heart disease. Some risks, such as smoking cigarettes or being overweight, are obvious: All of us know whether we smoke or whether we need to lose a few pounds. But other risk factors, such as high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, have few visible signs or symptoms. So you'll need to gather some information to create your own personal heart profile.
How to Talk With Your Doctor
The first step in finding out your risk is to make an appointment with your doctor for a thorough checkup. Your physician can be an important partner in helping you set and reach goals for heart health. But don't wait for your doctor to mention heart disease or its risk factors. Many physicians don't routinely bring up the topic, especially with their female patients. New research shows that women are less likely than men to receive heart healthy recommendations from their doctors. Here's how to speak up and establish good, clear communication between you and your doctor.