Health Spotlight: The Heart

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Your heart is located inside your chest between your two lungs, a little bit to the left of the center of your chest. It is about the size of your fist, and has 4 chambers; the right atrium, right ventricle, left atrium, and the left ventricle. The muscle wall separating the left and the right sides is called the Septum. This remarkable organ is the strongest muscle in your body. It is strong enough to keep the blood moving through all 554 miles (that is 2,216 laps around an outdoor track, or 9,698 football fields) of blood vessels in your body. It normally pumps about 5 liters (That’s 20 cups or 2 ½ 2 liter bottles of pop) of blood every minute.

This blood enters the heart from the superior vena cava (from the upper half of your body) and inferior vena cava (from the lower half of your body). These are both large veins (carries blood moving toward the heart) filled with blood containing lots of Carbon Dioxide and other waste from the rest of your body. The blood from these veins collects in the right atrium.

When the right atrium contracts the blood passes through a one-way valve to the right ventricle. This valve only allows the blood to move from the atrium to the ventricle and not the other way. Then, the right ventricle contracts and sends all this blood through another one-way valve to the pulmonary arteries. These arteries take the blood to the lungs where the Carbon Dioxide is exchanged for Oxygen (which our cells need to survive).

After passing through the lungs, the blood comes down the pulmonary veins and begins to collect in the left atrium.
The left atrium contracts and sends the blood through another one-way valve to the left ventricle. After this chamber has filled it contracts and sends the blood through one more one-way valve out to the Aorta. This blood vessel is the largest artery (carries blood moving away from the heart) in the body. The blood then goes through this artery and out to the rest of the body where it provides needed nutrients and oxygen to the tissues of the body, including those of the heart itself.

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