KNOW YOUR HEART

Heart is a major organ of the body that pumps blood with its life-giving oxygen and nutrients to all tissues of the body. If the pumping action of the heart becomes inefficient, vital organs like the brain and kidneys will be effected. Life itself is completely dependent on the efficient operation of the heart.

Anatomy of the heart:

Basically, the heart is a four-chambered muscle that works like two pumps. Each side has two chambers. The upper chambers are called Atrium and lower chambers are called Ventricles. The right pump sends blood out to the lungs to get more oxygen. The left pump sends oxygen-rich blood out to the body so that the body has enough nourishment to work effectively.
The upper chambers (atriums) receive blood from other parts of the body and the lower chambers (ventricles) pump the blood out. Valves are located between the chambers (between upper and lower chambers - one on each side) and between the lower chambers (one on each side) and the blood vessels going out of the chamber. These valves keep blood moving in one direction does not allow the blood to flow back.

The Heart Beat Cycle

Each heart beat is initiated by an electrical impulse which is generated in the heart itself. With each heart beat the blood is pumped out. The cycle is explained below.
The upper right chamber (atrium) is relaxed when it receives oxygen deprived blood from the rest of the body. During contraction, it pumps the blood through the valve into the lower right chamber (ventricle). When it relaxes again, more blood is allowed to enter. Next, the lower right chamber (ventricle) contracts and pumps oxygen deprived blood through the valve into the lungs where the blood picks up oxygen. When the lower right chamber (ventricle) relaxes again, more oxygen deprived blood is received from the upper right chamber.
At the same time, the upper left chamber (atrium) and lower left chamber (ventricle) are working, too. The oxygen-rich, blood leaving the lungs returns to the heart and enters the upper left chamber (atrium). When the upper left chamber squeezes it sends blood into the lower left chamber (ventricle) through the valve, then it relaxes and receives more oxygen-rich blood from the lungs.
Finally, the lower left chamber (ventricle)"the workhorse of the heart" must contract hard enough to send blood with enough force through the valve to reach the entire body. Then the lower left chamber (ventricle) rests long enough to fill up with blood again from the upper left chamber (atrium).

Heart Diseases:

There are many kinds of heart disease, and they can affect the heart in several ways. But the ultimate problem with all varieties of heart disease is that, in one way or another, they can disrupt the vital pumping action of the heart. Few of these are;

Coronary Artery Disease:

Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when the oxygen supplying blood vessels (the coronary arteries) to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed. Unhealthy diet increases fatty cells in the blood which tend to stick to the walls called plaque, this plaque results in hardening and narrowing of the blood vessel. There is a decrease in oxygen- rich blood supply due to the hardening and narrowing (blockage). The supply of blood to the heart muscle gradually decreases and completely stops as and when the blockage increases. Reduced supply of blood to the heart muscle can result in Chest pain, Heart Attack and also Heart Failure.

Arrhythmias:

An arrhythmia (Irregular Heart Beats) is a problem with the speed or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. A heartbeat that is too fast is called tachycardia. A heartbeat that is too slow is called bradycardia.
Sometimes arrhythmias can be serious or even life threatening. When the heart rate is too slow, too fast, or irregular, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. Lack of blood flow can damage the brain, heart, and other vital organs.

Valvular Heart diseases:

Valvular heart disease is the name given to any dysfunction or abnormality of one or more of the heart's four valves. In a normally functioning heart, the four valves (flaps made of tissue) keep blood flowing in one direction and only at the right time. They act as gates that swing open to allow blood to flow through and then tightly shut until the next cycle begins.

Septal defects:

Your heart has two sides, separated by an inner wall called the septum. The septum prevents mixing of blood between the two sides of the heart.
Some babies are born with a hole in the upper or lower septum. A hole in the septum between the heart's upper two chambers (the atria) is called an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). A hole in the septum between the heart's lower two chambers (the ventricles) is called a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD).
A hole in the septum can allow blood to pass from the left side of the heart to the right side. This means that oxygen-rich blood can mix with oxygen-poor blood, causing the oxygen-rich blood to be pumped to the lungs a second time and also oxygen deprived blood to the pumped back the body.

Prevention:

It's a lot easier to avoid a heart problem than it is to fix one. Many of the heart diseases can be prevented if they are not congenital (present at birth). Here are few tips to control/prevent heart diseases,

  • Eating a heart healthy diet low in salt, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Know your blood pressure and keep it under control
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don't smoke
  • Get tested for diabetes and if you have it, keep it under control
  • Know your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and keep them under control
  • Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Annual health checks - after the age of 30

We firmly believe that our society should be a healthy society. And this can be achieved only through knowledge of diseases, their causes, symptoms, and what needs to be done to prevent them. "Prevention is better than cure" is not just a phrase but true in reality as well. It has been proven clinically that most diseases if identified at an early stage can be reversed or managed with just medication. This will save people from hospitalization, the trauma of a surgery, saving on high cost and ensure a good quality of life. Through educative literature like these, we hope to make the society aware about common and often ignored diseases. We urge you to help us in this endeavor by sharing this literature with your family, friends and colleagues.