The human heart is a fist-sized muscular organ that lies between the right and left lungs and is enclosed in the pericardium. It pumps blood throughout the body through the blood vessels, veins, and arteries in order to supply nutrients and oxygen to the tissues and remove wastes including carbon dioxide.

The heart has four chambers; two atria, which are located on the upper sides of the heart and serve as collection chambers for blood and two ventricles, the bottom two chambers that pump the blood to the lungs and the body.

  • The right atrium receives deoxygenated blood through the inferior and superior vena cava and pumps it to the right ventricle

  • The right ventricle then pumps the deoxygenated blood to the lungs, which replenishes the blood with a fresh supply of oxygen

  • The left atrium receives blood loaded with oxygen from the lungs through the pulmonary vein. It then pumps the blood into the left ventricle through the mitral valve.

  • The left ventricle pumps oxygenated blood into the systemic circulation through the aorta

The chambers are separated by four valves, namely: aortic, mitral, tricuspid, and pulmonary, which control the direction of blood flow.

Meanwhile, coronary arteries provide the heart muscle with its own supply of blood. The heart also contains electrical pacemaker cells allowing it to contract and produce a heartbeat.

Common Heart Problems/Conditions

Heart conditions occur when the four chambers of the heart or its network of arteries and veins malfunction due to heredity, unhealthy lifestyle, or trauma. Common heart problems include:

  • Arrhythmia – This occurs due to problems with the heart’s electrical impulses causing it to beat too slow, too fast, or irregularly

  • Congestive heart failure – This condition is characterized by the heart’s inability to pump sufficient blood to meet the body’s needs

  • Heart valve problems – Any of the heart’s four valves can develop problems including stenosis, atresia, and regurgitation, each can lead to congestive heart failure.

  • Coronary artery disease – This is the leading cause of death in the United States and occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become narrowed or hardened.

  • Cardiomyopathy – Refers to the deterioration of the heart muscle losing its ability to contract, a condition that typically leads to heart failure.

  • Cardiac arrest – This is characterized by the abrupt loss of heart function

Common Cardiac Procedures and Surgeries

Several procedures and surgeries are carried out for the treatment of various heart conditions. Some of the most common are:

  • Angioplasty – This opens blocked or narrowed arteries to restore normal blood flow to the heart muscle

  • Heart valve replacement – A procedure performed to replace or repair diseased heart valves

  • Coronary artery bypass graft – This is performed in patients with blocked heart arteries. It uses veins or arteries from other parts of the body to reroute blood around the clogged artery and restore normal blood flow

  • Heart transplant – This is performed when the damage to the heart is irreversible. It removes and replaces diseased heart with a healthy human heart.

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