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Your heart is an important and remarkable part of your body

Your heart is a powerful muscle that pumps blood around your body through a network of blood vessels. This blood delivers oxygen and food to your muscles and vital organs in your body, allowing you to do all the things you do in everyday life.

Your heart sits in the centre of your chest, between your lungs and is protected by your rib cage. It is about the size of your fist.

How the Heart Works

The heart is made up of chambers, muscles, and valves

Your heart has four chambers (these are like rooms). Each chamber has a valve that opens and closes like a gate to make sure that blood can only travel in one direction, like a one-way traffic system.

  • The two top chambers are called atria
  • The two bottom chambers are called ventricles
  • Mitral and tricuspid valves control the flow of blood from the atria to the ventricles
  • The aortic and pulmonary valves control the flow of blood leaving the heart
  • The thick wall of muscle running down the centre of the heart is called the septum

Being the hard-working muscle that it is, your heart also needs a good fuel supply. It gets the oxygen and food it needs through its own blood vessel network called the coronary arteries.

Blood is pumped through the heart in a specific direction

Blood flows from the body into the right side of the heart, then out to the lungs, before re-entering the heart on the left side and being pumped back out to the rest of the body.

  • The atria are like the ‘entrance rooms’ of the heart. Blood lacking in oxygen first enters the heart through the right atrium (via the vena cava)
  • Blood flows from the right atrium into the right ventricle
  • The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs (via the pulmonary artery) where it collects oxygen
  • Oxygen-rich blood from the lungs flows back to the heart (via the pulmonary vein) and arrives in the left atrium
  • This blood flows from the left atrium into the left ventricle, where it is pumped out to the rest of the body (via the aorta).
Did you know?

The heart pumps, on average 4-6 litres of blood around the body every minute!

I never thought much about my heart but now I know it is my engine.Keith
Everything is dependent on my heart, mechanically, electrically, physiologically, emotionally and passionately. Whatever happens it all comes back to how well your heart performs in all areas.Helen Thompson-Carter
Helen Thompson-Carter

Continue the journey

How does blood flow through the heart?
Learn about the important role of the conduction system
Read more
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack is when blood stops flowing to part of your heart
Read more

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