Basic Anatomy of the Heart

About the heart

The heart is the hardest working muscle in the human body. The heart is located almost in the center of the chest. The adult human heart is about the size of a fist.

At rest, a normal heart rate for adults is 60 to 100 beats per minute. In a well-trained athlete, the resting heart rate can be healthy at a rate of 40 to 60 beats per minute. With exercise, the heart beats faster and the heart rate increases to get more oxygen to the muscles.

How the heart works

The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart and blood vessels. Its job is to circulate blood throughout your body. The blood brings oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.

Front view of female body showing arteries, veins, heart, and lungs with closed circulation system.

The heart is made up of:

  • 4 chambers (2 atria and 2 ventricles) that get blue (deoxygenated) blood from the body. They pump out red (oxygen-rich) blood back to it:

    • The atria get blood coming back to the heart.

    • The ventricles pump the blood out of the heart.

  • Blood vessels that include a network of arteries and veins that carry blood throughout the body:

    • Arteries carry blood from the heart to the body tissues.

    • Veins carry blood back to the heart.

  • 4 valves to prevent backward flow of blood:

    • Each valve is meant to allow the forward flow of blood. It prevents backward flow.

  • An electrical system that serves as a natural pacemaker. It also conducts electricity to stimulate the heart muscles to contract. This controls the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat.

    Cross section of heart showing blood flow and conduction system.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Steven Kang MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2023
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