Heart disease is a blanket term for any condition that affects the health of the heart. It can lead to a heart attack or stroke or affect the valves, pumping ability and muscles.
First, a Little Background on the Heart
At its most basic, the heart is a muscle that acts as a pump. The average heart is about the size of a fist and is situated to the left of center in the chest. The heart chambers are where the real action happens.
The heart has a left and a right side, dividing oxygen-rich blood from oxygen-poor blood. The oxygen-poor blood comes back to the heart after traveling through the body. The right atrium and ventricle comprise the right side of the heart. These collect and pump blood through the pulmonary arteries to the lungs.
As that happens, the lungs refresh the blood with new oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, the waste product of breathing. Meanwhile, the heart’s left side pumps blood through the aorta, supplying tissues all over the body with oxygen and nutrients.
The heart’s valves are a synchronized wonder. Four valves within the heart keep opening one way and then closing tightly, helping to facilitate circulation. The valves are the tricuspid, mitral, pulmonary and aortic valves. The heart has a continuous cycle of contractions and relaxations to help the blood flow. While contracted (known as systole), the ventricles force blood into the vessels of the lungs and body. During relaxation (diastole), the ventricles fill with blood coming from the upper chambers.