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Heart

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The heart is a muscular organ located behind the breastbone, slightly to the left.  It is about the size of a fist. It is divided into four chambers:

  • upper two blood receiving chambers are called left and right atria

  • lower two blood discharging chambers are called left and right ventricles

Function

The heart receives blood from various parts of the body through veins and pumps blood to the whole body through arteries. Blood flow through the heart is unidirectional: atria à ventricles à pulmonary artery and aorta. Two valves (AV valves) connect the atria to the ventricles. They prevent backflow of blood from ventricles to the atria. Oxygen-deficient blood enters the right atrium and passes to the right ventricle. The heart then pumps it into the lungs where it receives oxygen. Oxygenated-rich blood then returns to the left atrium and passes to the left ventricle. The heart pumps out this oxygen-rich blood to the whole body. Blood to the heart is supplied by coronary arteries.

Contraction and relaxation of heart muscles is initiated and coordinated by the electrical conduction system of the heart.At rest, the heart contracts in the ranges from 60-100 beats per minute.

Heart diseases

There are more than 60 different forms of heart disease. The most common ones are:

Coronary artery disease - affects or damages arteries that supply blood to the heart

Angina pectoris - pain, tightness and discomfort in the chest region when the heart does not receive enough blood due to narrowed coronary arteries

Cardiomyopathy - weakened heart muscle due to thickening and/or stiffening

Congenital heart disease - defect present in the heart at the time of birth

Congestive heart failure - heart is unable to pump blood throughout the body effectively

Arrhythmia - irregular heartbeat due to improper conduction of electric impulses in the heart

Myocardial infarction (heart attack): death of part of the heart muscle due to blocked blood supply

Myocarditis and pericarditis: inflammation of heart tissue due to infection

• Heart valve disease - narrowing of heart valve or prevention of full closure of valve

Tests

Diseases of the heart are diagnosed with listening to the heart-sounds with a stethoscope, blood tests, X-ray, ECG, echocardiogram, stress test, catheterization, ultrasound, etc.

Treatments

Lifestyle changes, diet and medication form a major part of treatment of heart disease. Other options are angioplasty, stenting, ablation, percutaneous coronary intervention, defibrillation, pacemaker and surgical interventions like bypass surgery, open heart surgery, heart transplant, etc.

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