30 August 2020
Anatomy and Physiology of the Heart
Many people may not realize how incredible our heart is and the amount of work it really does on a daily basis. Our heart beats roughly 100,000 times a day, pushing 5,000 gallons of blood through our body. Normally our heart beats anywhere from 60-100 beats per minute but has the ability to adjust the speed that it beats depending on our bodies needs. There are many factors than can speed up or slow down our heart rate including exercise, emotions, fever, disease, and medication. The heart, blood, arteries, and veins are all part of the circulatory system.
Anatomy of the heart
Our heart is a muscular organ, the size of about a closed fist, located in the mediastinum cavity, slightly left of mid sternal line. It contains two upper chambers, the right and left atria, and two lower chambers, the left and right ventricles. Dividing the left and right side of the heart is a wall of muscle tissue, called the septum. The septum helps direct the flow of blood by creating a divider so oxygenated and deoxygenated blood do not mix. The heart consists of 4 layers of tissue, the endocardium, the myocardium, the epicardium, and the pericardium. The endocardium lines the inside of the heart and is what protects the valves and chambers. The myocardium is the muscles of the heart. The epicardium is the inner part of the pericardium that serves as protection and contains coronary blood vessels. The pericardium is the thin, outer, elastic layer of protection on top of the epicardium. The heart also consists of four valves which close during contraction to keep the flow of blood going in one direction. The tricuspid valve connects the right atria and the right ventricle, the pulmonary valve connects the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery, the mitral valve connects the left atria and the left ventricle, and finally the aortic valve connects the left ventricle with the aorta.
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The blood flow of the heart
The blood flow cycle begins when deoxygenated blood returns from the veins via superior and inferior vena cava and enters the right atria. With a slight delay the right atria then contracts, sending blood into the right ventricle while its relaxed. The tricuspid valve then closes, forcing the blood to enter into the pulmonary arteries when the right ventricle contracts. The pulmonary arteries then carry the deoxygenated blood into the lungs where carbon dioxide is released and oxygen is picked up during through capillaries. Capillaries are very small, thin-walled blood vessels that allowed the exchange of compounds such as oxygen, waste, and nutrients. The now oxygenated blood returns to the heart through the pulmonary vein into the left atria. The left atria then contracts, releasing the blood into the left ventricle, with the mitral valve closing behind. Shortly after, the left ventricle contracts and pushes the blood into the aorta, which sends blood off to the rest of your body.
The electrical system of the heart
The sinoatrial node (SA node) is known as hearts natural pacemaker. It is responsible for keeping the heart in perfect unison to ensure the blood flows correctly throughout. It creates electrical impulses telling the atria to contract, sending blood to the ventricles, while also sending the electrical signal to the atrioventricular node (AV node). The AV node delays the electrical impulse from the SA node so the ventricles have time to fill up with blood from the atria. The impulse then travels through the atrioventricular bundle, also known as the bundle of His, which branches out to the left and right ventricles. On the end of these bundles are Purkinje fibers, which depolarizes the signal causing the ventricles to contract from the bottom up. This entire process takes about 0.22 seconds and is then repeated.
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Diastolic and systolic pressure
The sound of the human heartbeat is often described as a “lub-DUB” sound. The “lub” sound is made when the tricuspid valve and the mitral valves close. When these two valves close, pressure is built up in the ventricles is required for the blood to be pushed through the heart. This pressure that is built up is called systole. The “DUB” sound is caused by the pulmonary valve and the aortic valve closing. This is when the ventricles relax, so they can fill back up with blood from the atria. The systolic pressure is the peak pressure that is produced by the contracting ventricles, while the diastolic pressure is the pressure within your arteries when the ventricles are relaxed. Testing these two pressures gives health professionals an idea of how well your blood pressure is.
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The heart is one of the most powerful organs in the human body. From creating electrical impulses, to transporting nutrients to your muscles, it is essential to living and without it, you would die within minutes. The heart is often forgotten since it is an involuntary organ that is on repeat. Its import to take care of your heart so it can take care of you.
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Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320565.
OpenStax, director. Anatomy and Physiology, OpenStax, 6 Mar. 2013, opentextbc.ca/anatomyandphysiology/chapter/19-1-heart-anatomy/.
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Libretexts, director. Medicine LibreTexts, Libretexts, 14 Aug. 2020, med.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Anatomy_and_Physiology/Book:_Anatomy_and_Physiology_(Boundless)/17:_Cardiovascular_System:_The_Heart/17.1:_The_Heart/17.1C:_Layers_of_the_Heart_Walls.
Electrical System of the Heart | Michigan Medicine, www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/te7147abc.
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