Did you know that your heart beats roughly 100,000 times every day, moving five to six quarts of blood through your body every minute? Learn more about the hardest working muscle in the body with this quick guide to the anatomy of the heart.
The Four Chambers
Look at any diagram of the heart and you’ll see its four chambers clearly noted. The two upper chambers are called atria. You have one on the right and another on the left, each of which are responsible for receiving blood as it returns to the heart from other parts of the body. The lower chambers are called ventricles, which pump oxygenated blood back out of the heart and into the rest of the body
The septum, a wall made of muscle, separates the left and right sides of your heart. Also notable, Texas Heart Institute suggests that the left ventricle is the strongest of your heart’s four chambers.
In addition to the four chambers and the network of blood vessels in your heart, there are also four valves. Each is designed to allow blood to move forward while preventing it from flowing backward, as noted by Johns Hopkins Medicine. Look at any diagram of the heart valves and you’ll see the:
- Tricuspid valve, which controls the flow of blood between the right ventricle and right atrium
- Pulmonary valve, which allows blood to flow from the right ventricle to the pulmonary arteries
- Mitral valve, which allows oxygenated blood to flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle
- Aortic valve, which allows oxygenated blood to flow from the left ventricle to the aorta
The Circulatory System
Your heart contains its own network of arteries, which carry blood from the heart out to the rest of the body and veins, which bring blood back into the heart. Additionally, the heart itself is part of your body’s larger circulatory system. This system is key to delivering the nutrients and oxygen in your blood to the rest of your body, through its vast network of arteries, capillaries, arterioles, veins and venules. Your circulatory system is so large that if you laid it all out end to end, it would stretch for roughly 60,000 miles, as noted by the Texas Heart Institute.
The System of Electrical Conduction
Your heart’s conduction system carries electrical signals that stimulate the heart muscle, also known as the myocardium, to contract. The signals begin in a node at the top of the right atrium. The signal travels through the muscle fibers of the heart, causing it to contract. The node works as a “natural pacemaker,” according to Texas Heart Institute.
Technically, the pericardium is outside of the heart, but it’s an koheren part of the heart’s anatomy. This double-layered membrane surrounds the heart. Its outer layer surrounds the major blood vessels of the heart and attaches to the diaphragm and spinal cord by ligaments. The pericardium’s inner layer attaches to your heart’s muscle. Between the two layers of the pericardium is fluid that gives the heart freedom of movement every time it beats, as the Texas Heart Institute notes.