The heart's main job is to pump the right amount of blood to all parts of the body. The heart is a muscle, which contracts and relaxes as the blood cycles and recycles throughout the body.
The heart has four chambers. The upper chambers or atrium collect blood returning from the body to the heart. The upper chambers empty into the lower chambers when the valves between the two chambers open. The lower chambers or ventricles pump blood out of the heart to the body. There are two more valves that control blood flow from the ventricles.
While the blood is passing through the heart, it flows into the lungs to pick up a supply of oxygen. The oxygen rich blood is then passed to the lower left chamber and leaves the heart via the aorta, a large blood vessel, carrying blood and oxygen to the body.
The heart muscle needs its own supply of blood and oxygen in order to keep pumping. The coronary arteries, which lie on the surface of the heart, are essential in providing the nourishment and oxygen for the heart.
Keeping Your Heart Healthy
Several of the most important risk factors for heart disease are within your control.
Cigarette Smoking. The nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow, which can greatly increase the chance of having a heart attack.
Diet. A diet high in fat and cholesterol can add pounds and contribute to atherosclerosis. Increase fiber (fruits, vegetables, grains) and reduce fats to improve your heart health.
High Blood Pressure. Hypertension can lead to blood vessel damage because the heart has to work harder to pump the blood through narrowed or hardened vessels affected by atherosclerosis. This damage can lead to the formation of blood clots inside the blood vessels, which can cause heart attacks.
Limited Physical Activity. Regular exercise will keep you young at heart. Any kind of physical activity is beneficial.
Stress. Relieve stress through exercise, soothing music, relaxation techniques or a warm bath. Stress is a part of life and learning to control it could prolong your life.