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Heart Health - How the Heart Works

Anatomy of the Heart

The human heart has four cavities. The top two are called atria and the bottom two are called ventricles; each side of the heart contains an atrium and a ventricle. These are, in turn, connected by a valve. The septum or wall separates the two sides of the heart. The left valve is called the mitral valve and the right one is called the tricuspid valve.



At the top of the heart is the aorta, which is also the largest of the arteries and carries nutrients such as food and oxygen away from the heart. The arteries gradually branch into the capillaries where they are released. In this process, waste products are also returned to the bloodstream. The pulmonary artery connects the heart with the lungs where carbon dioxide is exchanged for oxygen. This renewed blood flows back to the left side of the heart. The superior vena cava and the inferior vena cava carry the blood into the heart. The superior is located near the top of the heart with the inferior is located beneath it.

The heart is a pump that ceaselessly works. The average cardiac muscle contracts and relaxes between 70 to 80 times per minute. With each contraction it sends blood through the cavities and to the rest of the body.

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