3D render image of the heart

How your heart works

The heart, a vital organ essential for life, functions as a remarkable pump that sustains the body's various processes. Understanding how the heart works is crucial for reducing the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

Medical illustration of the divisions of the heart.

THE STRUCTURE

Divisions of the heart

Situated between the lungs and behind the sternum, the heart is a cone-shaped muscle with a size comparable to a fist.

Divided into four chambers...

  • Right atrium

  • Right ventricle

  • Left atrium

  • Left ventricle

...the heart operates as a complex pump regulated by one-way valves.

These valves ensure the unidirectional flow of blood through the heart's chambers, preventing any backflow.

The heart also has two sides:

  • The right side of the heart collects oxygen-poor blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs, where it acquires oxygen and releases carbon dioxide.

  • In contrast, the left side collects oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and propels it throughout the body.

This intricate process involves a series of valves, veins, and arteries working in tandem.

Medical illustration of an EKG chart.

THE BEAT

Your heart & electricity

The heart beats because of special cells that create electricity.

One important part is called the sinoatrial node or SA node, which acts like a natural pacemaker. It sends electrical signals that make the heart squeeze and pump blood.

These signals follow specific paths, making sure the upper and lower parts of the heart work together.

Nerves from the autonomic nervous system also affect the heart. The sympathetic system makes the heart beat faster and stronger, while the parasympathetic system does the opposite.

The electricity made by the heart creates waves we can measure, as shown in an electrocardiogram or EKG. If something goes wrong with this system, it can cause minor issues or more serious problems that need treatment, like using artificial pacemakers.

Medical illustration of structure of the aorta.

THE SUPPLY

Your heart & blood supply

The heart gets its blood from coronary arteries, which come from the aorta.

If these arteries get blocked, it can cause problems like angina or, in serious situations, a heart attack.

The heart also has veins that take blood with less oxygen, going into the coronary sinus and then back to the right atrium.

Learning about how the heart is built and how it works helps us know how to keep our hearts healthy. As we discover more about the details of this important organ, we start to understand the amazing teamwork that keeps our hearts beating and keeps us alive every second.

Image of a woman eating healthy food

You already know your heart is important. What are you feeding it?

6 Natural Ways to Support Heart Health

Keeping your heart healthy is crucial because the heart plays a central role in maintaining overall well-being.

A healthy heart supports blood flow, energy, endurance, longevity, quality of life and even mental health. Here are a few natural ways to keep your heart healthy at any age:

Natural Heart Health Supplements: