The Heart

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Your heart has the right and left separated by a wall. Each side has a small chamber called the atrium pronounced ay-tree-um , which leads into a large pumping chamber called a ventricle pronounced ven-tri-kl. There are 4 chambers:. The blood entering the right side of your heart is low in oxygen. This is because oxygen is removed from your blood as it circulates through your body's organs and tissues. Once it has received oxygen, your blood returns directly to the left side of your heart, which then pumps it out again to all parts of your body. The left ventricle of your heart is larger and thicker than the right ventricle.

Anatomy of the Heart

This is because it has to pump the blood further around the body, and against higher pressure, compared with the right ventricle. To make sure your blood flows in the correct direction, valves guard the entrance and exits of your hearts chambers. This publication is provided for education and information purposes only.

Basic anatomy of the heart

Cardiovascular disease can sometimes be found early with regular evaluations. A heart arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat. Your heart may beat too quickly, too slowly or irregularly. Heart arrhythmia symptoms can include:. Serious congenital heart defects — defects you're born with — usually become evident soon after birth. Heart defect symptoms in children could include:. Less serious congenital heart defects are often not diagnosed until later in childhood or during adulthood. Signs and symptoms of congenital heart defects that usually aren't immediately life-threatening include:. In early stages of cardiomyopathy, you may have no symptoms.

As the condition worsens, symptoms may include:. Endocarditis is an infection that affects the inner membrane that separates the chambers and valves of the heart endocardium. Heart infection symptoms can include:.

Biology of the Heart - Heart and Blood Vessel Disorders - Merck Manuals Consumer Version

The heart has four valves — the aortic, mitral, pulmonary and tricuspid valves — that open and close to direct blood flow through your heart. Valves may be damaged by a variety of conditions leading to narrowing stenosis , leaking regurgitation or insufficiency or improper closing prolapse. Depending on which valve isn't working properly, valvular heart disease symptoms generally include:.

Heart disease is easier to treat when detected early, so talk to your doctor about your concerns regarding your heart health. If you're concerned about developing heart disease, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to reduce your heart disease risk. This is especially important if you have a family history of heart disease. If you think you may have heart disease, based on new signs or symptoms you're having, make an appointment to see your doctor. A normal heart has two upper and two lower chambers.

The upper chambers, the right and left atria, receive incoming blood. The lower chambers, the more muscular right and left ventricles, pump blood out of your heart. The heart valves, which keep blood flowing in the right direction, are gates at the chamber openings. Your heart is a pump. It's a muscular organ about the size of your fist, situated slightly left of center in your chest.

The Interior of the Heart

Your heart is divided into the right and the left side. The division prevents oxygen-rich blood from mixing with oxygen-poor blood. Oxygen-poor blood returns to the heart after circulating through your body. Four valves within your heart keep your blood moving the right way by opening only one way and only when they need to. To function properly, the valve must be formed properly, must open all the way and must close tightly so there's no leakage.

The four valves are:. Your heart's electrical wiring keeps it beating, which controls the continuous exchange of oxygen-rich blood with oxygen-poor blood. This exchange keeps you alive. If you have too many cholesterol particles in your blood, cholesterol may accumulate on your artery walls. Eventually, deposits called plaques may form. The deposits may narrow — or block — your arteries. These plaques can also burst, causing a blood clot.


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While cardiovascular disease can refer to different heart or blood vessel problems, the term is often used to mean damage to your heart or blood vessels by atherosclerosis ath-ur-o-skluh-ROE-sis , a buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries. Plaque buildup thickens and stiffens artery walls, which can inhibit blood flow through your arteries to your organs and tissues. Atherosclerosis is also the most common cause of cardiovascular disease.

It can be caused by correctable problems, such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking. The "DUB" is the sound of the aortic and pulmonary valves closing. During diastole, the atria and ventricles of your heart relax and begin to fill with blood. At the end of diastole, your heart's atria contract atrial systole and pump blood into the ventricles. The atria then begin to relax. Next, your heart's ventricles contract ventricular systole and pump blood out of your heart.

Your heart uses its four valves to ensure your blood flows in only one direction. Healthy valves open and close in coordination with the pumping action of your heart's atria and ventricles. The cusps allow pumped blood to pass through the chambers and into your blood vessels without backing up or flowing backward. Oxygen-poor blood from the vena cavae fills your heart's right atrium. The atrium contracts atrial systole. The tricuspid valve located between the right atrium and ventricle opens for a short time and then shuts. This allows blood to enter the right ventricle without flowing back into the right atrium.

When your heart's right ventricle fills with blood, it contracts ventricular systole. The pulmonary valve located between your right ventricle and pulmonary artery opens and closes quickly. This allows blood to enter into your pulmonary arteries without flowing back into the right ventricle. This is important because the right ventricle begins to refill with more blood through the tricuspid valve.

Blood travels through the pulmonary arteries to your lungs to pick up oxygen. Oxygen-rich blood returns from the lungs to your heart's left atrium through the pulmonary veins. As your heart's left atrium fills with blood, it contracts. This event is called atrial systole. The mitral valve located between the left atrium and left ventricle opens and closes quickly. This allows blood to pass from the left atrium into the left ventricle without flowing backward. As the left ventricle fills with blood, it contracts.

This event is called ventricular systole. The aortic valve located between the left ventricle and aorta opens and closes quickly.

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This allows blood to flow into the aorta. The aorta is the main artery that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body. The aortic valve closes quickly to prevent blood from flowing back into the left ventricle, which already is filling up with new blood.


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  • When your heart pumps blood through your arteries, it creates a pulse that you can feel on the arteries close to the skin's surface. For example, you can feel the pulse on the artery inside of your wrist, below your thumb. You can count how many times your heart beats by taking your pulse. You will need a watch with a second hand. To find your pulse, gently place your index and middle fingers on the artery located on the inner wrist of either arm, below your thumb. You should feel a pulsing or tapping against your fingers.

    Heart Age Calculator

    Watch the second hand and count the number of pulses you feel in 30 seconds. Double that number to find out your heart rate or pulse for 1 minute. The usual resting pulse for an adult is 60 to beats per minute.


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    • Your heart and blood vessels make up your overall blood circulatory system. Your blood circulatory system is made up of four subsystems. Arterial circulation is the part of your circulatory system that involves arteries, like the aorta and pulmonary arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart. The exception is the coronary arteries, which supply your heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood. Healthy arteries are strong and elastic stretchy. They become narrow between heartbeats, and they help keep your blood pressure consistent.

      This helps blood move through your body. Arteries branch into smaller blood vessels called arterioles ar-TEER-e-ols. Arteries and arterioles have strong, flexible walls that allow them to adjust the amount and rate of blood flowing to parts of your body. Venous circulation is the part of your circulatory system that involves veins, like the vena cavae and pulmonary veins. Veins are blood vessels that carry blood to your heart. Veins have thinner walls than arteries. Veins can widen as the amount of blood passing through them increases.

      Capillary circulation is the part of your circulatory system where oxygen, nutrients, and waste pass between your blood and parts of your body. Capillaries are very small blood vessels. They connect the arterial and venous circulatory subsystems. The importance of capillaries lies in their very thin walls. Oxygen and nutrients in your blood can pass through the walls of the capillaries to the parts of your body that need them to work normally.

      Capillaries' thin walls also allow waste products like carbon dioxide to pass from your body's organs and tissues into the blood, where it's taken away to your lungs. Pulmonary circulation is the movement of blood from the heart to the lungs and back to the heart again. Pulmonary circulation includes both arterial and venous circulation. Oxygen-poor blood is pumped to the lungs from the heart arterial circulation. Oxygen-rich blood moves from the lungs to the heart through the pulmonary veins venous circulation.

      Pulmonary circulation also includes capillary circulation. Oxygen you breathe in from the air passes through your lungs into your blood through the many capillaries in the lungs. Oxygen-rich blood moves through your pulmonary veins to the left side of your heart and out of the aorta to the rest of your body. Capillaries in the lungs also remove carbon dioxide from your blood so that your lungs can breathe the carbon dioxide out into the air. Your heart's electrical system controls all the events that occur when your heart pumps blood.

      The electrical system also is called the cardiac conduction system. If you've ever seen the heart test called an EKG electrocardiogram , you've seen a graphical picture of the heart's electrical activity. A heartbeat is a complex series of events. A heartbeat is a single cycle in which your heart's chambers relax and contract to pump blood.



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