Chambers of the Heart

The heart is a muscular organ about the size of a fist, located just behind and slightly left of the breastbone.  It pumps blood thru the network of arteries and veins that makeup the cardiovascular system.

There are four chambers in the heart:

THE RIGHT ATRIUM
Gets blood from the veins and pumps it to the right ventricle.

THE RIGHT VENTRICLE
Receives this blood and pumps it to the lungs, where is gets oxygen.

THE LEFT ATRIUM
Gets the oxygenated blood from the lungs and sends it to the left ventricle.

THE LEFT VENTRICLE
The strongest part of the heart.  It pumps the oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body.  The left ventricle’s contractions are what creates our blood pressure.

The coronary arteries run along the surface of the heart and provide oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.  A web of nerve tissue also runs through the heart, conducting the complex signals that control contraction and relaxation.  The heart is surrounded by a sac called the pericardium.

Heart Tests
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

A tracing of the heart’s electrical activity.  This test can help diagnosis many heart conditions.

Echocardiogram

This is an ultrasound of the heart.  An echocardiogram provides direct viewing of any problems with the heart muscle’s pumping ability and the heart valves.

Cardiac stress test

By using a treadmill or medications, the heart is stimulated to pump to near-maximum capacity.  This may identify people with coronary artery disease.

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Cardiac catherization

A catheter is inserted into the femoral artery in the groin or thru an artery in the wrist and is threaded into the coronary arteries.  A doctor can look at the x-ray images of the coronary arteries or any blockages and decide if cardiac stents or other procedures are needed.

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Holter monitor

If a doctor suspects arrhythmia, a portable heart monitor can be worn.  It records the hearts rhythm continuously.

Event Monitor

If a doctor suspects an infrequent arrhythmia, a portable heart monitor called an event monitor can be worn.  If you have symptoms, you push a button to record the heart’s electrical rhythm.

Heart Conditions
CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE

Over time, cholesterol plaques can narrow arteries that supply blood to the heart. These narrowed arteries are at a higher risk for complete blockage from a sudden blood clot. This blockage is what is known as a heart attack.

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STABLE ANGINA PECTORIS

Narrowed coronary arties cause predictable chest pain and/or discomfort with exertion.  These blockages prevent the heart from getting the extra oxygen needed for strenuous activity.  Symptoms typically get better with rest.

UNSTABLE ANGINA PECTORIS

Chest pain or discomfort that is new to your, is getting worse, or can occur at rest.  Consider this an emergency situation as it can precede a heart attack, serious abnormal heart rhythm, or cardiac arrest.

MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION (HEART ATTACK)

A coronary artery is suddenly blocked.  Part of the heart muscle dies due to lack of oxygen.

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What happens when you have a heart attack?

ARRHYTHMIA (DYSRHYTHMIA)

An abnormal heart rhythm (due to changes in the conduction of electrical impulses in the heart). Some of these arrhythmias are benign, but others can be life-threatening.

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Congestive Heart Failure

The heart is either too weak or too stiff to effectively pump blood through the body.  You may experience shortness of breath and leg swelling, as these are very common symptoms.

Cardiomyopathy

A disease of heart muscle in which the heart is abnormally enlarged, thickened, and/or stiffened.  As a result, the heart can not pump blood as effectively as it should.

Myocarditis

Inflammation of the heart muscle, most often due to a viral infection.

Pericarditis

Inflammation of the lining of the heart (pericardium).  Viral infections, kidney failure, and autoimmune conditions are often common causes.

Pericardial effusion

Fluid between the lining of the heart (the pericardium) and the heart itself.  This is often due to pericarditis.

Atrial fibrillation

Abnormal electrical impulses I the atria can cause an irregular heartbeat.  A-Fib is one of the most common arrhythmias.

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Pulmonary embolism

Typically, a blood clot travels thru the heart to the lungs.

Heart valve disease

There are four heart valves, and each can develop problems.  If severe, this valve disease can cause congestive heart failure.

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Heart mumur

An abnormal sound can be heard when listening to the heart with a stethoscope.  Some of these mumurs can be benign, others can suggest heart disease.

Endocarditis

Inflammation of the inner lining or heart valves of the heart.  This is usually endocarditis due to a serious infection of the heart valves.

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Mitral Valve prolapse

The mitral valve is forced backward slightly after blood has passed through the valve.

Sudden cardiac death

Death caused by the sudden loss of heart function (cardiac arrest).

Cardiac Arrest

Sudden loss of heart function.

Heart Treatments
Exercise

Regular exercise is a very important part of heart health.  Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program if you have heart problems.

Cardiac Catherization

During cardiac catheterization, a long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel in your arm, groin or upper thigh, neck, or wrist. The catheter is then threaded to your heart. Your doctor may use it to examine your heart valves or take samples of blood or heart muscle. Your doctor also may use ultrasound or inject a dye into your coronary arteries to see whether your arteries are narrowed or blocked. Cardiac catheterization may also be used instead of some heart surgeries to repair heart defects and replace heart valves.

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Angioplasty

Angioplasty is a procedure to open narrowed or blocked arteries caused by deposits of plaque. If the blockage is not major, the problem may be corrected by inflating the balloon several times to compact the plaque against the arterial wall, widening the passage for the blood to flow through. Typically, a device called a stent is placed within the coronary artery to keep the vessel open.

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Coronary artery stenting

During cardiac catherization, a doctor expands a wire metal stent inside a narrowed or blocked coronary artery to open up the area.  This lets the blood flow better and can abort a heart attack or help relieve angina (chest pain).

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Thrombolysis

“Clot busting” drugs are injected into the veins and can dissolve a blood clot causing a heart attack.  Thrombolysis is generally only done if stenting is not possible.

Lipid lowering agents

Stations and other cholesterol (lipid) lowering drugs reduce the risk of heart attack in high risk patients.

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Diuretics

Commonly called water pills, these pills increase urination and fluid loss.  This reduces blood volume, and can improve symptoms of heart failure.

Beta Blockers

These medications reduce strain on the heart and can lower heart rate.  Beta blockers are prescribed for many heart conditions, including heart failure and arrhythmias.

Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors)

These blood pressure medications can also help the heart after some heart attacks or in congestive heart failure.

Aspirin

This can help prevent blood clots (the cause of heart attacks).  Most people who have suffered a heart attack should take aspirin.

Antiarrhythmic medications

Several medications help control the hearts rate and its electrical rhythm.  These help prevent or control arrhythimas.

Clopidogrel (Plavix)

A clot preventing medication that prevents platelets from sticking together to form blood clots.  This is important for people who have had cardiac stents placed. 

Brilinta

An antiplatelet medication that can help lower your chance of another heart attack

Eliquis

Anticoagulant used to treat and prevent blood clots and to prevent stroke in people with atrial fibrillation.

ICD (Implantable cardioverter defibrillator)

If a doctor suspects you are at risk for a life threatening arrhythmia, an ICD may be surgically implanted to monitor your heart rhythm and send an electrical shock to the heart if necessary.

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Pacemaker

To maintain a stable heart rate, a pacemaker may be implanted.  A pacemaker sends electrical signals to the heart when necessary to help it beat properly.

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Care after a Pacemaker or ICD