Your heart is located slightly to the left of the middle of your chest and is actually a muscle, about the size of your fist. The heart keeps the body running by supplying the rest of your body with all important oxygen in the blood and the heart also carries away waste, so in many ways it is similar to a pump.
To be more accurate, it is actually two pumps in one as the heart is split into two parts. The right side of the heart receives blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs while the left side receives blood from the lungs and then pumps it out to the rest of the body.
Your heart beat is the action of the muscles in the heart pumping the blood around the body by continually squeezing and relaxing. When you exercise, the body uses more oxygen so the heart has to meet that demand and work harder; hence your heart beats faster.
The heart is split into four chambers, two on each side with one on the top and one on the bottom. The two chambers on top are called the left atria and the right atria and these are the parts of the heart that receive the blood from the rest of the body and the lungs.
The two lower chambers are called ventricles and they pump blood out from the heart to the lungs and the rest of the body with the left and right sides of the heart separated by a thick wall of muscle called the septum.
The atria and ventricles work together. The atria fill with blood before it is moved into the ventricles to be squeezed out to the rest of the body and while the ventricles pump the blood out, the atria re-fill with blood ready for the next ‘pump’. All of this blood flow within the heart is control by a series of ‘valves’ which ensure the blood flows where it should.
The blood is then carried around the body by blood vessels which are attached to the heart. Arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart and veins carry used blood back to the heart and this movement of blood is called circulation.
The body contains millions of cells which need a constant supply of oxygen, supplied by blood. When the cells receive the blood, the oxygen gets used up, and by doing so, the cells produce carbon dioxide which is a waste product that needs to be got rid of.
As the blood gets pumped around, some of it passes through the kidneys which ‘clean’ the blood and remove some of the waste before it goes back to the heart.
After the used blood has returned to the heart, the right side of the heart sends the blood to the lungs where not only is the waste carbon dioxide dumped for us to exhale, the used blood is refreshed with oxygen ready for it to be sent back to the cells. Our constant inhaling and exhaling supplies the body with the oxygen it needs.
Your pulse is the action of the heart pumping and an indication of how hard your heart is working. As said earlier, if you exercise, your heart pumps faster and your pulse increases, hence, fitness can be measured from your resting pulse rate and the time it takes for the pulse to return to a normal rate following physical activity.
The average heart beat of adults is between 70 and 90 beats per minute.
It is vitally important you look after your heart and a few things you can do will greatly help to keep your heart fit and healthy. Remember the heart is a muscle so like any other muscle, to make it stronger you need to exercise it. Anything that makes the heart beat faster is going to make it stronger so regular exercise is a must, avoid eating unhealthy fats that clog the blood vessels and don’t smoke as this will damage the heart and lead to health problems.