You probably already know that your heart is a vital organ that beats all day and keeps you alive. But what you might not know is how it works and just how busy it is.
Your heart is the hardest-working muscle in your body. It beats roughly 100,000 times a day. But the heart has many vital functions and does much more than give you a pulse.
Blood Flow By The Gallon
It pumps two thousand gallons of blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to every cell, nerve, muscle, and vital organ in your body.
It also pumps hormones and other vital substances through the body, carries metabolic waste products from the body and pumps it to the lungs for oxygen, maintains blood pressure, and much more.
And unlike other vital organs, the heart doesn’t need any help to do its job. It has its own conduct system that keeps it beating and coordinates your heart rhythm and heart rate.
The heart is capable of some amazing feats. It can even continue to beat for a short time after brain death or after being removed from the body.
This article will examine everything the heart does, how blood vessels work, why preventing vein and vascular disease is crucial for heart health, and what you can do to keep your entire circulatory system healthy.
It’s our hope that by understanding how your heart functions and what it does to keep you alive, you will be encouraged to take the necessary steps to care for all the systems that keep your heart beating, healthy, and strong.
Understanding How The Heart Works
The heart is a vital organ in the center of your chest behind your sternum and between your lungs. Every adult heart is slightly different, but most are about the size of a large fist and weigh between 7-15 ounces.
It might be small, but the heart muscle is the hardest working muscle in your body. It supplies blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to every cell, nerve, muscle, and vital organ.
It is comprised of multiple layers of tissue and is the center of your circulatory system– a network of blood vessels, such as arteries, veins, and capillaries, that carries blood to and from all areas of your body.
To help you better understand, envision your heart as a small building with walls, rooms, doors, plumbing, and electrical.
The Heart Walls
The walls of your heart are made of three layers of muscle tissue. The endocardium, the myocardium, and the epicardium. These muscles contract to blood through your body
The Heart Chambers
Inside these walls, you have four rooms, or in the heart’s case, four chambers. There are two chambers on the right side and two on the left side. The top two chambers receive incoming blood and are called the left atrium and right atrium. The bottom two chambers pump blood out of the heart; they are called the left ventricle and right ventricle.
Now, the blood has to know where to go from there. This is where your heart valves come in. The heart has four valves that separate the four chambers – the tricuspid valve, the pulmonary valve, the mitral valve, and the largest and most important of the four, the aortic valve.
These valves are like doors because they open and close as your heart pumps and stop blood from flowing in the wrong direction. The beating sound your heart makes is actually caused by the opening and closing of these valves.
Once blood leaves the heart, it then circulates through your blood vessels. This is part of your heart’s “plumbing system.” It’s an extensive and complex setup. In fact, if you were to stretch out your blood vessel system, it would extend over 60,000 miles!
The first part of your heart’s “plumbing system” consists of three “pipes” known as blood vessels.
- Arteries: The aorta (the body’s main blood supplier) branches into two main coronary arteries that branch into smaller arteries. Their role is to allow blood to flow between the heart, lungs and rest of the body. This is a very powerful process, but your arteries have thick walls, so they can handle this kind of high pressure and velocity.
- Veins: Your veins are much thinner than your arteries and can’t handle the high pressure your arteries can. Because they are so tiny, their role is to carry deoxygenated blood back to your heart and lungs from the rest of your body, which is a much lower-pressure process.
- Capillaries: On average, you have about 10 billion capillaries in your body. There are three types: continuous, fenestrated, and discontinuous. These tiny blood vessels are so small and thin that a single red blood cell can barely fit through them, but they play an essential role. They connect your arteries to your veins and are involved in exchanging oxygenated and deoxygenated blood.
The second part of your heart’s “plumbing system” is a pump. Technically, it is two pumps in one.
- The right side of your heart: Pumps blood to the lungs.
- The left side of your heart: Receives blood from the lungs and pumps it out to the body.
This pumping process, referred to as circulation or blood flow, is important because blood carries away waste products and the oxygen and nutrients your organs need to work properly.
The Conduct System
Lastly, you have your heart’s “electrical system.” This wiring, known as the conduction system, is made up of nodes, branches, and fibers.
It is the part of your heart that makes the upper chambers squeeze and the ventricles contract. It is a pretty complex system, but essentially, the conduction system is what keeps the heart beating.
As complex as all this might sound, believe it or not, the entire process happens really fast. It only takes about a minute to pump blood to every cell in your body.
What Your Heart Does For the Body
The heart is responsible for pumping life-sustaining blood and does all the work without the help of other organs, such as the brain.
The heart might be one organ, but it has many parts that work hard 24/7 to keep you alive and give your body’s cells the oxygen it needs to survive.
Your heart health is not only crucial for the heart itself; it is critical for overall good health.
Why Overall Vascular Health Is So Important
Despite its small size, your heart works harder than any other muscle in your body. Because it is linked to so many vital functions that keep us alive, it’s essential that your heart is healthy and your overall circulation, blood vessels, veins, and arteries are as well.
If there’s any damage to your heart, it is difficult for your body to receive the blood it needs. We will tell you a few ways your heart and all its systems can become damaged next.
A little further down, we will also give you tips to ensure you’re taking care of your heart to avoid vein and vascular disease and some options should you already be presented with these health challenges.
How Vein and Vascular Disease Can Impact Heart Function
Vascular disease affects the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients throughout your body and remove waste from your tissues.
This typically happens when a fatty substance called plaque builds up inside the arteries and slows or blocks blood flow inside your arteries or veins.
Vein issues, such as varicose and spider veins, will most likely not affect your overall heart health. Still, an existing heart condition may make vein problems worse.
However, there is a connection between the veins and your heart health. Veins are the carriers of blood to the heart. If you have any type of vein disease or cardiovascular disease, it can create significant problems, including blood clots. If a clot breaks free, you are at risk that it will travel to the lungs and result in pulmonary embolism.
Types of Vein and Vascular Disease
Heart disease is the number one killer of people all over the world. Roughly 31 million Americans have heart disease, and each year close to 650,000 of them die from it.
Vascular diseases range from problems with your arteries, veins, and vessels affecting blood flow.
Some of the most common types of vascular disease include:
- Blood clots
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Pulmonary embolism
- Coronary heart disease
- Carotid artery disease
- Raynaud’s disease
- Rheumatic heart disease
- Heart valve disease
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Heart inflammation
Some of the most common types of vein disease or venous disorders include:
- Varicose veins
- Blood clots
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Deep vein thrombosis
You might be wondering why high blood pressure isn’t on the list. High blood pressure is not heart or vein disease on its own. High blood pressure can be caused by many things, such as poor lifestyle and diet, genetics, and other diseases.
However, having high blood pressure can lead to complications that can weaken or damage your heart because it causes the heart and blood vessels to work harder.
The same is true with a high heart rate. Having a faster pulse isn’t heart or vein disease. A wide variety of factors that have nothing to do with heart or vein disease can speed up your heart rate.
Nevertheless, it could mean the heart muscle is weakened, and having a high resting heart rate is thought to be a factor in determining a person’s risk of a heart attack. You should consult your doctor if your resting heart rate is consistently above 100 beats per minute.
Treatment Options for Vein and Vascular Disease
Treatment for vein and vascular disease varies based on which type of vein or vascular disease you are diagnosed with and how severe it is.
Types of treatments for vascular diseases might include:
- Lifestyle changes (eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, etc.)
- Prescription medications
- Surgery (such as a catheter)
- Other non-surgical procedures (such as stenting)
Types of treatments for vein diseases might include:
- Blood clot medications
- Compression therapy
- Vein ligation and stripping
- Vena cava filter
- Angioplasty or stenting
- Vascular or endovascular surgery
If you have a vein or vascular disease, the experienced doctors and nurses at The Vein Center can help you develop the best treatment plan for your unique diagnosis.
Tips For a Healthy Heart and Circulatory System
Your heart does a lot for your body. You need to take steps to ensure you are treating it right and are taking necessary precautions to take care of your arteries and enhance blood flow.
Your heart can do all the pumping it wants, but if your arteries are clogged, and you have poor blood flow, it will make your heart’s job much harder.
The best way to ensure you’re taking care of your entire circulatory system, including the heart, is by exercising and eating a heart-healthy diet.
Inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as physically active people, and the foods you eat directly impact your cardiovascular health.
Some other ways to keep your heart and all its systems working properly include:
- Don’t smoke. If you are already a smoker, it is crucial to quit now.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check.
- If you have diabetes, control your blood sugar.
- Do not sit or stand for long periods.
- Decrease and manage stress levels.
- Include more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
- Wear compression socks and elevate your legs.
- Limit salt, sugar, and saturated fats.
- Maintain good oral hygiene.
- Get plenty of sleep.
The Vein Center in Nashville Is Here To Help
The Vein Center Nashville is Middle Tennessee’s most established vein treatment practice. We know that vein health is vital to your well-being and that healthy veins mean a healthier, happier you.
Whether it be spider veins, varicose veins, or DVT, The Vein Centers’ advanced vein therapy and vein surgery techniques will help return your veins to optimal health.
Click Here to contact our knowledgeable and friendly staff. For your convenience, we have 2 locations, Belle Meade and Mount Juliet.