What is the heart?
Yes, it’s true. When your heart malfunctions, so does your entire body. But why is that so?
The heart is referred to as la coeur French, and adequately so, as it can be considered as the core functioning organ of the body.
Basic Functions and Location
Its basic functions include pumping blood through the blood vessels of the body’s circulatory system. Arteries transport blood away from the heart, whereas veins carry blood to the heart.
However, there’s more to the heart than just the function of transporting blood. The muscular organ also assists in the removal of metabolic wastes.
It is situated in the middle section of the chest, known as the mediastinum
Separations of the Human Heart
The human heart is separated into four chambers:
- Left Atrium
o Pumps oxygenated blood from the left and right pulmonary (lung) veins to the left ventricle
- Right Atrium
o Receives and holds deoxygenated blood from the smallest cardiac veins, sending it down to the right ventricle
- Left Ventricle
o Received oxygenated blood from the left atrium, and sends it to the aorta (central valve) for systemic circulation
- Right Ventricle
o Receives deoxygenated blood from the right atrium, and sends it to the pulmonary artery for pulmonary circulation
In a healthy heart, blood flows in a singular direction through the heart as assisted by heart valves, which prevent backflow
Weight and Size
The heart itself is enclosed in a sac known as the pericardium, which also contains a small amount of fluid
Interesting side fact: The heart enclosed inside the pericardium is as big as a closed fist
The heart is usually larger on the left side as opposed to the right, since the left part of the heart (containing both the left ventricle and left atrium) pumps blood to all parts of the body
How much does it weigh? Well, the adult human heart weighs anywhere between 250-350 grams. Diseased hearts, however, could weigh up to 1 kilogram.
The heart contracts at a resting rate close to 72 bpm. Exercise temporarily increases the rate (normal elevated heart rate should extend to 160 bpm), but lowers resting heart rate in the long term.
To truly understand the heart, however, you must delve deeper in to the components of the heart’s wall. These are the:
The epicardium, along with an inner serous membrane, provide a pericardial fluid that lubricates the surface of the heart (pericardium). It also supplies nerve fibers to the myocardium
The myocardium’s is a cardiac muscle, which comprises the middle layer of the heart. It contains blood vessels and nerve fibers supplied by the epicardium – these help regulate the heart’s blood rate
The endocardium is the innermost layer of the heart. It consists of epithelium, and covers the heart chambers and valve. It is connected to the endothelium of veins and arteries, and is joined to the myocardium with a thin layer of connective tissue.
Finally, the heart contains four separate valves:
- Tricuspid valve
- Mitral valve
- Pulmonary Valve
- Aortic Valve
This valve consists of three cusps, made of endocardium reinforced with extra connective tissue – the tedinous cords. The cords consist 80% in part of collagenous fibers with the remainder consisting of elastic fibers and endothelium. Their purpose is to connect each of the cusps to a papillary muscle that extends from the walls of the atrium – they henceforth prevent the valve from falling back into the atrium
The mitral valve is located between the left atrium and left ventricle, with a posterior (back) and anterior (front) cusp. After diastole (filling of blood), the mitral valve opens and blood travels from the left atrium to the left ventricle. This attaches to papillary muscles as well, which is the reason why both the tricuspid valve and the mitral valve are referred to as atrioventricular valves.
This valve has three cusps which are not attached to papillary muscles. When the ventricle relaxes blood flows back into the ventricle from the artery and this flow of blood fills the pocket-like valve, pressing against the cusps which close to seal the valve.
The aortic valve isn’t connected to any papillary muscles either. It has three cusps which close the pressure of the blood flowing back from the aorta.
That, in a nutshell, is what the heart is.
Some famous songs related to the heart:
- Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On
- Bruce Springsteen – Hungry Heart
- Blondie – Heart of Glass
- Yes – Owner of a Lonely Heart
- Neil Young – Heart of Gold
- Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel
- Sting – Shape of My Heart
- Gym Class Heroes ft Adam Levine – Stereo Hearts
- Grum – Heartbeats (Joe & Will Ask Remix)
- Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – My Heart, My Life
- Robyn – With Every Heartbeat (Punks Jump Up Remix)
- Sinead O’Connor – You Made Me The Thief of Your Heart
- Moby – Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad
- Axwell – Heart is King
- Oasis – You’ve got the heart of a star
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