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Medicine LibreTexts

19: The Cardiovascular System - The Heart

  • Page ID
  • Chapter Objectives

    • Identify and describe the interior and exterior parts of the human heart
    • Describe the path of blood through the cardiac circuits
    • Describe the size, shape, and location of the heart
    • Compare cardiac muscle to skeletal and smooth muscle
    • Explain the cardiac conduction system
    • Describe the process and purpose of an electrocardiogram
    • Explain the cardiac cycle
    • Calculate cardiac output
    • Describe the effects of exercise on cardiac output and heart rate
    • Name the centers of the brain that control heart rate and describe their function
    • Identify other factors affecting heart rate
    • Describe fetal heart development

    In this chapter, you will explore the remarkable pump that propels the blood into the vessels. There is no single better word to describe the function of the heart other than “pump,” since its contraction develops the pressure that ejects blood into the major vessels: the aorta and pulmonary trunk. From these vessels, the blood is distributed to the remainder of the body. Although the connotation of the term “pump” suggests a mechanical device made of steel and plastic, the anatomical structure is a living, sophisticated muscle. As you read this chapter, try to keep these twin concepts in mind: pump and muscle.

    • 19.0: Prelude to The Heart
      Although the term “heart” is an English word, cardiac (heart-related) terminology can be traced back to the Latin term, “kardia.” Cardiology is the study of the heart, and cardiologists are the physicians who deal primarily with the heart.
    • 19.1: Heart Anatomy
      The vital importance of the heart is obvious. If one assumes an average rate of contraction of 75 contractions per minute, a human heart would contract approximately 108,000 times in one day, more than 39 million times in one year, and nearly 3 billion times during a 75-year lifespan. Each of the major pumping chambers of the heart ejects approximately 70 mL blood per contraction in a resting adult. This would be equal to 5.25 liters of fluid per minute and approximately 14,000 liters per day.
    • 19.2: Cardiac Muscle and Electrical Activity
      Recall that cardiac muscle shares a few characteristics with both skeletal muscle and smooth muscle, but it has some unique properties of its own. Not the least of these exceptional properties is its ability to initiate an electrical potential at a fixed rate that spreads rapidly from cell to cell to trigger the contractile mechanism. This property is known as autorhythmicity. Neither smooth nor skeletal muscle can do this. Heart rate is modulated by the endocrine and nervous systems.
    • 19.3: Cardiac Cycle
      The period of time that begins with contraction of the atria and ends with ventricular relaxation is known as the cardiac cycle. The period of contraction that the heart undergoes while it pumps blood into circulation is called systole. The period of relaxation that occurs as the chambers fill with blood is called diastole. Both the atria and ventricles undergo systole and diastole, and it is essential that these components be carefully regulated and coordinated.
    • 19.4: Cardiac Physiology
      The autorhythmicity inherent in cardiac cells keeps the heart beating at a regular pace; however, the heart is regulated by and responds to outside influences as well. Neural and endocrine controls are vital to the regulation of cardiac function. In addition, the heart is sensitive to several environmental factors, including electrolytes.
    • 19.5: Development of the Heart
      The human heart is the first functional organ to develop. It begins beating and pumping blood around day 21 or 22, a mere three weeks after fertilization. This emphasizes the critical nature of the heart in distributing blood through the vessels and the vital exchange of nutrients, oxygen, and wastes both to and from the developing baby. The critical early development of the heart is reflected by the prominent heart bulge that appears on the anterior surface of the embryo.
    • 19.E: The Cardiovascular System - The Heart (Exercises)