The Normal Heart

The heart is a fist-sized muscle that pumps blood through the body 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, without rest. The normal heart is made up of four parts: two atria on the top of the heart (right atrium and left atrium), and two ventricles (right ventricle and left ventricle) which are the muscular chambers on the bottom of the heart that provide the major power to pump blood.

These four chambers are connected by valves that allow blood to move forward and prevent it from flowing backwards. Coronary arteries, or blood vessels, deliver a constant, nourishing supply of blood to the heart muscle itself.

The heart’s pumping action, or “heartbeat,” is directed by a complicated electrical system. Problems with the regular heartbeat, such as abnormally fast or slow rhythms, can be caused by a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or aging, but may happen for other reasons as well. Heart rhythm problems can cause the feeling that the heart is “racing,” or "skipping" (palpitations), weakness, shortness of breath,  passing out (syncope), and sometimes death.

Blockages in the coronary arteries can also cause major problems in the heart because they slow or stop the flow of blood to the heart muscle. If the heart does not get enough blood, pain (often called angina) or muscle death from a heart attack (myocardial infarction) can result which can damage the heart's ability to pump and cause abnormal heart rhythms.

Although people can do a great deal to protect their hearts by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and controlling their cholesterol and blood pressure, some people are born with a tendency to have heart disease or have other illnesses that may affect the heart. 

Keep Exploring

Early Warning Signs
Over 2.5 million people experience a racing, pounding, rumbling or flopping feeling in their chest but don't know that it could be Atrial Fibrillation which increase the chance of stroke by 500%. Maybe you are seeing irregular heart rhythm readings on your new wearable health device and are not sure what it means. If you been fainting or having repeated dizzy spells, it's time to see a doctor to discuss your heart health.
Heart Rhythm Disorders
Millions of people experience irregular or abnormal heartbeats, called arrhythmias, at some point in their lives. Most of the time, they are harmless and happen in healthy people free of heart disease. However, some abnormal heart rhythms can be serious or even deadly. Having other types of heart disease can also increase the risk of arrhythmias.
Common Treatments
The underlying cause of any heart rhythm disorder provides the basis for selecting the best treatment plan. In general, the best treatment is the least invasive option that effectively controls the heart rhythm disorder.
Since other heart disorders increase the risk of developing abnormal heart rhythms, lifestyle changes often are recommended. Living a “heart healthy” lifestyle can ease the symptoms experienced with heart rhythm disorders and other heart disorders, and can be beneficial to overall patient health.
HRS Glossary
The Heart Rhythm Society brings you an online dictionary of common medical terms related to heart, and rhythm problems.