How our heart works

interesting facts

Unveiling the heart's
fascinating beat and pump

Join us on a captivating journey as we explore the intricate workings of the heart. In this comprehensive guide, we dive into the basics of cardiac anatomy and physiology, unraveling the awe-inspiring mechanisms that keep this vital organ ticking. From understanding the heart's chambers and valves to exploring its electrical system, we provide a clear and accessible overview to enhance your knowledge.

How our heart works Heart Matters

Average heart rate

Normal blood pressure

Average blood pumped
5-6.0 litres/min

Our heart is usually the size of our fist and weighs around 250grams

How our heart works Heart Matters
anatomy and physiology

The essentials that keep us beating

In this section, we embark on a fascinating exploration of the heart's remarkable anatomy and function. Delve into the intricacies of the heart's four chambers—the atria and ventricles—and gain a deeper understanding of how they work together in perfect harmony. Discover the major blood vessels that carry life-giving oxygenated blood from the heart to every corner of the body, and learn about the crucial role they play in sustaining our health.

Moreover, we delve into the captivating world of the heart's electrical system, uncovering the intricate web of impulses that orchestrate its rhythmic beat. Gain insights into the pacemaker cells, electrical pathways, and regulatory mechanisms that ensure the heart functions reliably and efficiently.

Heart Muscle Matters

The cardiac muscle

The heart muscle, or myocardium, is a specialized type of muscle that makes up the walls of the heart. The myocardium is responsible for contracting and relaxing to pump blood throughout the body.

The heart muscle is unique in that it is constantly active, even when the body is at rest. The myocardium is able to generate its own electrical impulses, which stimulate the contraction of the heart muscle.

The heart muscle is made up of specialized cells called cardiomyocytes, which are connected by intercalated discs. These discs allow for the rapid transmission of electrical signals between cells, allowing the heart to contract in a coordinated and efficient manner.

The heart muscle has two important functions known as systolic and diastolic function. Systolic function refers to the ability of the heart to contract and pump blood out to the body. During systole, the myocardium contracts, and the heart chambers empty out the blood they were holding, sending it out to the lungs and body. Diastolic function, on the other hand, refers to the ability of the heart to relax and fill up with blood. During diastole, the myocardium relaxes, and the heart chambers refill with blood from the veins.

The coordination of these two functions is essential for the proper functioning of the heart and circulation of blood throughout the body. Systolic and diastolic function can be affected by a variety of factors, including damage to the heart muscle, high blood pressure, and certain medical conditions. Measuring and monitoring these functions can be important in diagnosing and managing heart conditions.

The Rhythm of Opening & Closing

The heart valves

The heart's four valves play a critical role in ensuring that blood flows smoothly through the heart, from the right atrium to the right ventricle, and from the left atrium to the left ventricle.

The tricuspid valve is located between the right atrium and the right ventricle. It has three cusps or flaps that open and close to control blood flow. When the heart muscle contracts, the tricuspid valve opens, allowing blood to flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle. When the heart relaxes, the tricuspid valve closes, preventing blood from flowing back into the atrium.

The pulmonary valve is located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery, which carries blood to the lungs. It is also composed of three cusps and works in a similar fashion to the tricuspid valve. When the right ventricle contracts, the pulmonary valve opens, allowing blood to flow into the pulmonary artery and on to the lungs. When the heart relaxes, the pulmonary valve closes, preventing blood from flowing back into the right ventricle.

The mitral valve, also known as the bicuspid valve, is located between the left atrium and left ventricle. It is named after the resemblance of its two cusps to a bishop's mitre or hat. The mitral valve opens when the left atrium contracts, allowing blood to flow into the left ventricle. When the ventricle contracts, the mitral valve closes, preventing blood from flowing back into the atrium.

Finally, the aortic valve is located between the left ventricle and the aorta, the largest artery in the body. The aortic valve has three cusps and works in a similar way to the pulmonary valve. When the left ventricle contracts, the aortic valve opens, allowing blood to flow into the aorta and out to the rest of the body. When the heart relaxes, the aortic valve closes, preventing blood from flowing back into the ventricle.

The Lifeblood of Our Heart

The coronary arteries

The coronary arteries are blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. These arteries are essential for the proper functioning of the heart, and any blockages or damage to them can lead to important health complications.

There are two main coronary arteries: the left coronary artery and the right coronary artery. The left coronary artery branches off into two smaller arteries, the left anterior descending artery and the circumflex artery. These arteries supply blood to the left side of the heart, including the left ventricle, which is responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. The left anterior descending artery (LAD) is one of the two main branches of the left coronary artery and is considered the largest of the coronary arteries. Its size and location make it a critical artery for the functioning of the heart, supplying blood to the front and left side of the heart, including the left ventricle, which is responsible for pumping blood to the rest of the body.

The right coronary artery supplies blood to the right side of the heart, including the right ventricle, which pumps blood to the lungs to be oxygenated. The coronary arteries are located on the surface of the heart and are encased in a layer of fat and connective tissue, known as the epicardium.

Blockages in the coronary arteries can lead to a condition known as coronary artery disease (CAD), which is a leading cause of heart attacks. CAD occurs when plaque builds up in the walls of the coronary arteries, causing them to narrow and reducing blood flow to the heart.


The conduction system

The human heart is an incredible organ that works tirelessly to keep us alive. It is responsible for pumping blood to the rest of the body, supplying vital nutrients and oxygen to our cells. One of the key components of the heart's function is its conduction system.

The conduction system is a network of specialized cells that control the rhythmic beating of the heart. These cells are located within the heart's walls and are responsible for generating and coordinating electrical impulses that regulate the heartbeat.

The conduction system begins in the sinoatrial (SA) node, which is located in the upper-right chamber of the heart, known as the right atrium. The SA node is often referred to as the "natural pacemaker" of the heart because it initiates the electrical impulses that signal the heart to beat.

From the SA node, the electrical impulses travel through a series of specialized cells, known as the atrioventricular (AV) node. The AV node is located in the lower-right chamber of the heart, known as the right ventricle. The AV node serves as a gatekeeper, slowing down the electrical impulses and allowing the atria to fully contract before the ventricles are activated.

After passing through the AV node, the electrical impulses travel down a bundle of specialized fibers, known as the bundle of His, which divides into two branches, one for each ventricle. These branches then further divide into Purkinje fibers, which spread throughout the ventricles, triggering the coordinated contraction of the heart's muscle fibers.

The conduction system of the heart ensures that the heartbeat remains synchronized and rhythmic, allowing for efficient pumping of blood throughout the body.

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The Heart Valves

The heart has four valves – the mitral valve, tricuspid valve, aortic valve, and pulmonary valve – each with a crucial role in regulating blood flow through the heart. These valves are essential for maintaining healthy circulation and play a critical role in keeping the body functioning properly. 

The Coronary Arteries

The left coronary artery divides into two branches that provide blood supply to the left side of the heart. These two branches are known as the left circumflex artery, which supplies blood to the side of the heart, and the left anterior descending artery, which supplies blood to the front part of the heart.

Similarly, the right coronary artery originates from the right side of the aorta and supplies blood to the right and bottom part of the heart.

The Conduction System

The conduction system is a network of specialized cells in the heart that coordinates the electrical impulses that regulate the heartbeat. It includes the sinoatrial (SA) node, atrioventricular (AV) node, bundle of His, and Purkinje fibers. Normal sinus rhythm is the regular, coordinated electrical activity of the heart originating from the SA node, resulting in a consistent heart rate and rhythm.

The left and right bundles are part of the conduction system responsible for transmitting electrical impulses to the ventricles. The left bundle is located in the left ventricle and the right bundle is located in the right ventricle. The bundles help to ensure the synchronized contraction of the ventricles.

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other anti-anginals

When first-line therapies for angina, such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and nitrates, prove inadequate or are not well-tolerated, second-line therapies may be considered.
Perhexiline is a unique medication that enhances the heart's ability to utilize fatty acids for energy, reducing its reliance on oxygen and lowering oxygen demand. This action helps improve blood flow and alleviates chest pain in some patients with refractory angina.
Nicorandil is another second-line option with a dual mechanism of action. It opens potassium channels in smooth muscle cells, causing vasodilation and enhancing coronary blood flow. Additionally, nicorandil also stimulates nitric oxide release, further dilating blood vessels and reducing heart workload.
Trimetazidine is an anti-ischemic agent that improves cardiac efficiency by enhancing glucose metabolism and shifting the heart's energy production to a more oxygen-efficient process. As second-line therapies, these medications offer alternative approaches for managing angina in individuals who do not respond adequately to first-line treatments or those experiencing side effects from other medications.

lipid lowering therapies

Lipid-lowering therapies play a critical role in managing coronary artery disease (CAD), a condition characterized by the narrowing of blood vessels that supply the heart. Among the most commonly discussed and debated classes of medications are statins, which effectively reduce cholesterol levels and are widely prescribed to lower the risk of cardiovascular events. Alongside statins, other medications like ezetimibe, fibrates, and niacin are also utilized to target specific aspects of lipid metabolism, such as cholesterol absorption, triglyceride levels, and raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Additionally, the introduction of medications that inhibit PCSK9, an enzyme involved in cholesterol metabolism, has provided a promising new approach to further lower LDL cholesterol levels. These PCSK9 inhibitors, such as Repatha (evolocumab), have shown significant efficacy in reducing LDL cholesterol levels in patients with CAD, especially for those who may not respond well to traditional therapies.


Nitrates are widely used to treat angina and provide quick relief for chest pain. Commonly available in the form of sublingual sprays or tablets, patches, and long-acting tablets, nitrates work by dilating blood vessels, allowing for increased blood flow and reduced resistance. This dilation eases the heart's workload, leading to a decreased demand for oxygen and prompt alleviation of angina symptoms. Sublingual nitrates act rapidly and are often used to provide immediate relief during angina attacks, while patches and long-acting tablets are employed for preventive purposes. However, nitrates may cause side effects such as headaches, dizziness, and flushing, which usually subside over time.

calcium channel blockers

Calcium channel blockers, including amlodipine, felodipine, cardizem (diltiazem), and verapamil, are commonly prescribed for the treatment of angina. These medications work by inhibiting the influx of calcium into the muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels, leading to their relaxation. As a result, blood vessels widen, promoting improved blood flow and reduced blood pressure. In the context of angina, this relaxation decreases the heart's workload, lowering the demand for oxygen and alleviating chest pain. Calcium channel blockers offer a valuable treatment option for individuals with angina, but it is essential to be aware of potential side effects, which may include headaches, dizziness, flushing, and ankle swelling.

Beta blockers

Beta blockers, such as metoprolol, propranolol, atenolol, carvedilol, and bisoprolol, play a crucial role in treating angina. By blocking certain receptors in the heart, they effectively reduce heart rate and the force of contraction, thereby easing the heart's workload. This mechanism of action leads to a decreased demand for oxygen, making beta blockers highly effective in relieving chest pain associated with angina. As with any medication, it's important to consider potential side effects, including tiredness, worsened asthma, erectile dysfunction in some males, and more vivid dreams during sleep. Consult your healthcare provider to determine the suitability of beta blockers for managing your angina and overall heart health.

Anti-platelet Medications

Anti-platelet medications play a crucial role in preventing blood clot formation, reducing the risk of serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. Among the widely used anti-platelet drugs are aspirin, clopidogrel, and ticagrelor.

Aspirin: This well-known medication inhibits platelet activation, making it less likely for platelets to stick together and form clots. Aspirin is commonly used for primary and secondary prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

Clopidogrel: As a potent anti-platelet agent, clopidogrel works by blocking specific receptors on platelets, preventing them from aggregating. It is often prescribed to patients with acute coronary syndrome, those undergoing stent procedures, and for some cases of peripheral arterial disease.

Ticagrelor: Ticagrelor is another effective anti-platelet drug that works by inhibiting platelet activation. It is used in acute coronary syndrome, often given alongside aspirin to reduce the risk of heart-related events.