Anatomy of the Heart
The heart is located just behind the sternum, slightly to the left. It’s protected by a tough sac called the pericardium. The heart needs all the protection it can get; it beats an average of 100,000 times a day, pumping about 2,000 gallons worth of blood through the body. The pericardium protects the roots of the major blood vessels. It’s attached to the spinal column and diaphragm with strong ligaments that keep the heart in place and protect it from movement within the chest.
Walls of the Heart
The heart’s walls are made up of three main layers; the epicardiam, myocardium, and endocardium. The epicardium is the outermost layer, a membrane that covers and protects the heart, producing lubricating fluid. The myocardium is what is commonly referred to as the heart “muscle.” It is the tissue that contracts and relaxes to produce the heartbeat, pushing the blood through the body. The endocardium is a very smooth layer of tissue that lines the interior of the heart and prevents the formation of blood clots.
The heart contains four chambers- the left and right atriums, and the left and right ventricles. The atria makes up the upper part of the heart. They are smaller than the ventricles, and act as the receiving chamber for blood coming back into the heart, while the ventricles push blood out into the body. There are two circulatory loops attached to the heart. The right loop circulates blood to the lungs, while the left loop pushes oxygenated blood out into the body.
Moving blood through the heart requires four strong valves, one between each of the four chambers and in the arteries and veins that carry blood to and from the heart. The valves control the flow of the blood around the heart and ensure the pumping action is efficient. Valves can be replaced surgically using artificial or organic replacements. Taking good care of your heart means enjoying good health throughout your lifetime.