The heart is an amazing pumping machine which provides blood rich in oxygen and nutrients to all the organs and cells in your body. This hard working machine is actually a muscle which requires its own supply of blood and nutrients to stay healthy and continue pumping blood to other parts of your body. All of the organs and cells in your body require a continuous flow of blood to stay alive.
Your heart is genetically programmed to beat automatically for the length of your life. In other words, it is an involuntary muscle that keeps working regardless of what you do physically or mentally. The average person’s heart beats approximately 72 times per minute. The number of beats per minute can vary greatly depending on your level of activity. Greater activity=more beats per minute. If you perform some quick conservative calculations, you can see that the heart will beat over 2.5 billion times during the average life span of 70-years.
The heart muscle contains four chambers, each of which have a specific function. The upper chambers are called the left and right atrium and are smaller than the other chambers. The larger chambers are called the left and right ventricle respectively. Blood lacking in oxygen enters into the right atrium where it is then pumped into the right ventricle. From the right ventricle the blood goes through the pulmonary artery and travels to the lungs where it picks up fresh oxygen and eliminates carbon dioxide.
At this point the oxygen rich blood is then carried to the left atrium by the pulmonary veins and enters the left ventricle. The left ventricle is the work horse of the heart muscle and its main pumping chamber. It is from the left ventricle that blood is pumped to all the organs of the body through the aorta. In the case of a heart attack, this is the critical area of the heart which can be most vulnerable
Some of the blood that passes through the aorta is routed to the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are a source of blood specifically designated for the heart itself. On the left side of the heart the main artery splits off into two major arteries known as the left circumflex artery, and the left anterior descending artery. On the right side of the heart, another major artery known as the right coronary artery comes in from the aorta. All the main arteries branch off into other coronary arteries.
All of these arteries provide the heart with its own source of oxygen and nutrients. Obviously these arteries are critical in keeping the heart muscle alive and functioning. When a person has a heart attack this blood flow to the heart itself is interrupted. If this condition persists for more than 30 minutes, there is a strong possibility that the section of the heart muscle receiving blood from the blocked artery may die.
In the case of heart failure, the heart muscle is damaged to the extent that it can no longer pump enough blood to vital organs. So the once efficient pumping machine then becomes unable to keep up with the demand for blood by the rest of the body. As a result, blood can back up to the lungs creating respiratory problems including difficulty breathing.