Your Beating Heart

Yesterday I wrote about how your heart has an inbuilt electricity generating system. The system, also known as the SA Node or the pacemaker allows the cells in your heart to generate electricity. I could not tear myself away from this subject, and an obvious follow-up question was why? Why was your heart making power in the first place and why did it matter?

Your heart is made up of four chambers. In the first two chambers, blood pours in, and in the next two chambers blood pours out. Through this process, blood is circulated throughout your body providing much-needed oxygen and nutrition to the cells of your body. The chambers of your heart are made of muscles known as cardiac muscles. These muscles contract and expand and through this process ensure that the blood circulation in your body occurs throughout your lifetime. It does not matter if you are asleep, awake, well or unwell. It does not matter if you are sleeping or climbing Mount Everest. Your heart will beat for you. The question is who or what is the puppeteer making your heart beat?

It turns out that this role is played by the electrical impulses generated within your heart. Each time a pulse is generated it sends a signal to the muscles of your heart to beat. The heart responds like every good puppet would and takes blood in through your vena cava and fills the right atrium. Next, a signal is sent to your atria which contracts. The contraction sends blood flowing into your ventricles. Collectively, this action is known as your beating heart. Clinically this is what it means to be alive.

You might ask yourself what if anything would stop this process. Well, a short circuit for one or even a bolt of lightning can interfere with the rhythm of the electrical impulse. When it does, you will not like the outcome.

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