The Heart Beats On - American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month. It is appropriately positioned during the same month in which Valentine's Day is celebrated with declarations of love and affection.
The heart has a rhythm all its own. It beats to its own pulsating drum. We associate our feelings of emotions to the heart. The common expressions "heart ache," "heart-to heart connection," and "feeling from the heart" make reference to this. Listening to the heart of a loved one we feel comfort and warmth. A doctor listening to the heart listens to the beat of life itself.
The average heart beats 2.5 billion (2,500,000,000) times in a lifetime. The heart pumps blood received from veins into arteries throughout the body. It is positioned in the chest behind the sternum (breastbone; in front of the trachea, esophagus, and aorta; and above the diaphragm muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities. The normal heart is about the size of a closed fist, and weighs about 10.5 ounces. It is cone- shaped, with the point of the cone pointing down to the left. Two-thirds of the heart lies in the left side of the chest with the balance in the right chest.
The heart is composed of specialized cardiac muscle, and it is four-chambered, with a right atrium and ventricle, and an anatomically separate left atrium and ventricle. The blood flows from the systemic veins into the right atrium, thence to the right ventricle, from which it is pumped to the lungs, then returned into the left atrium, thence to the left ventricle, from which it is driven into the systemic arteries.
The heart is thus functionally composed of two hearts:
the right heart and the left heart. The right heart
consists of the right atrium, which receives deoxygenated
blood from the body, and the right ventricle which pumps it
to the lungs under low pressure; and the left heart,
consisting of the left atrium, which receives oxygenated
blood from the lung, and the left ventricle, which pumps it
out to the body under high pressure.
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