Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in adults. It’s important to know potential red flags and to talk with your doctor about them. One of the keys to keeping your heart healthy is knowing what is normal and abnormal.

The human heart is a pear-shaped structure about the size of a fist. The heart is an amazing organ.  It is responsible for supplying the body with oxygenated blood.  Each time the heart beats, it exerts a pressure on the veins and arteries called blood pressure.  Blood pressure is extremely important and must be controlled if it is too high or low.  Blood pressure can be controlled by medication prescribed by your doctor, proper exercise and a diet filled with plants and vegetables.

The heart is made of a special kind of muscle called myocardium, and is enclosed in a double-layered, membranous sac called a pericardium.

The heart lies in the chest cavity between the lungs. It is composed of four chambers, many large arteries and many veins. The four chambers are called atrium and ventricles. A wall of muscle divides the heart into two cavities: the left cavity pumps blood throughout the body, while the right cavity pumps blood only through the lungs. Two chambers of the heart lie in the left cavity and two chambers lie in the right cavity.

The two upper chambers of the heart are called atrium, the bottom chambers are called ventricles.  The right side of the heart receives deoxygenated blood from all parts of the body except for the lungs.  The left side of the heart receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and  pumps it to the rest of the body.  An adult heart beats approximately 100,000 times a day, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood. It has been estimated that the heart will beat about 3 billion times during a 70 year lifetime.

Pay attention to your heart

Pay attention to what is happening in your body because everything affects the heart.

  • Is your heart rate elevated?
  • Are you drained?
  • Are your palms hot?
  • Are you stressed?
    • If you are stressed, try breathing techniques to center yourself and calm yourself down. Whether it is stressful or unexpected, our minds can be a great helper when it comes to thinking positively. Make sure you practice breathing techniques before, during and after stressful situations.

Given the heart’s arduous task of supplying the body with blood every day, it must be well taken care of.  A heart that is improperly cared for may develop heart disease.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans.

Each year there are more than 1.1 million heart attacks in the United States.  Unfortunately, of these heart attacks, 250,000 are sudden, causing the patient to die within an hour. Heart disease is often treated by eating foods with low cholesterol, weight loss, exercise and medical treatment. If you would like to know if weight loss will decrease your chance of heart disease, determine your body mass index. Intake of healthy foods like oranges, avocados, and broccoli will also decrease the possibility of developing heart disease.

Heart Attack and strokes are the outward signs of heart disease, namely the accumulation of arterial plaque which slowly constricts or closes arterial passageways, causing life threatening conditions. Heart disease does not happen overnight, but is a life-long progression.

The heart responds to many heart and circulatory conditions by enlarging up to 4 times its normal size. An enlarged heart is common in atrial fibrillation and long standing high blood pressure patients.

Athlete’s heart

“Athlete’s heart” is a common term for an enlarged heart associated with repeated strenuous exercise. Due to the increased workload required of it, the heart will increase physiologically by enlarging its chambers and muscle mass, thus increasing the volume of blood pumped per stroke. As a result, the heart has to contract less frequently and at rest will beat as few as 40 times per minute. The average number of beats per minute in a non “athlete’s heart” is 70 beats. “Athletes heart” is not pathological, and there is usually no danger of cardiac disability arising from it.