As the old saying goes, “Health is Wealth.” This statement remains ever valid. A happy life often starts with a healthy life.
For you to stay healthy, however, you must have a clear understanding of how your body works.
If you understand the way your body operates, taking proper care of it would be that much easier for you to do.
As far as human health is concerned, few organs play the sort of crucial role that the heart does when it comes to maintaining the proper operating and functioning of the body.
The heart is responsible for several aspects of human health. This is one of the primary reasons why keeping a healthy and functioning heart is essential for you.
To fully appreciate the role of the heart in the human body, we must first understand what it does.
After entirely doing so, we will then be able to know what factors affect the operation of the heart and what implications each of these factors have to the heart when present.
So, to start with, what exactly is the heart? What does it do? It’s functions, and what are the various factors that affect the heart’s activities?
Well, let’s find out…
What is the Heart?
The heart is truly a fantastic organ. Situated between the lungs, it leans gently towards the left of the sternum.
A portion of the heart, two-thirds of it precisely, is found on the left half of the chest with the remaining parts of the heart situated to the right side of the chest frame.
The heart is a healthy muscle that can be physically described as the size of a clenched fist.
A heart is quintessential in all human beings. This is, of course, why it functions throughout the lifespan of a human being.
A healthy heart would pump roughly 200 million litres of blood throughout a person’s lifetime.
To do this, it would have to beat an estimate of about over 2.4 billion times throughout a person’s life.
This is only one of the many reasons why the heart is considered to be the most well-defined organ, as well as the hardest active muscle inside the human body.
As you can imagine, an organ that is subject to this much use over an extended period would be more easily prone to wear and tear.
Especially if the muscle isn’t well cared for and the heavy workload it performs.
What Does the Heart Do?
As described above, the heart pumps a tremendous amount of blood almost nonstop throughout a person’s lifetime.
Why is this so? It is because the pumping of the heart is what ensures that the blood flow in the human body is maintained. Without the constant pumping of the heart muscle, blood can’t circulate throughout the body.
This means that in the absence of that activity, nutrients won’t be able to travel around the body.
Also, oxygen wouldn’t be able to reach the various organs within the frame needing it to function.
So, more concisely, cited below, are the significant functions and purposes of the human heart.
- Serves as the primary organ for pumping blood throughout the human body.
- Facilitates the delivery of various materials such as oxygen-rich blood, glucose, and various essential hormones to different locations in the body where they are required.
- It is also instrumental in maintaining the appropriate level of blood pressure required for the body to function correctly.
- Once blood that contains oxygen has been used up and replaced with deoxygenated blood, the heart is responsible for moving it from the right atrium by the tricuspid valve through the channel of the right ventricle straight to the lungs to be replenished and vice versa.
- It primarily serves as a conduit, opening into various major arteries, arterioles, and capillaries that transport fluids and essential materials to multiple regions of the body.
These various functions performed solely by the heart are a significant reason it is especially susceptible to multiple diseases and disorders.
This is because the vast network it uses in its operation can easily be blocked anywhere along the line, leading to cases like a heart attack or heart blockage.
Knowing this, it becomes relatively easy to see just why you must do what you can to keep your heart in perfect working condition.
How Does the Heart Carry Out its Various Functions?
The way the heart can so easily carry out the various duties and functions, it is responsible for its operations.
To be able to adequately perform its multiple missions of carrying oxygen and different other needed materials to the required locations at the right time is due to the mechanisms it employs in functioning.
The heart carries out two types of circulation processes:
Through this type of blood circulation, the heart can ferry blood without oxygen to the lungs, away from the heart.
This same circulatory process allows it to move blood that has been saturated with oxygen from the lungs back to the heart.
The pulmonary circulation actions do not exceed moving blood in various conditions, as well as from the heart and lungs.
Systemic circulation differs from this significantly.
It’s activities purely involve carrying the oxygen-filled blood that’s arrived at the center from the lungs straight to every other tissue and organ in the body and then back to the heart when it’s done.
However, note that since the heart itself is also a muscle and needs oxygenated blood, a system of circulation different from the two listed above is employed to help it get the oxygen-filled blood it needs. This is called Coronary Circulation.
Coronary circulation is also essential for ensuring that while various nutrients and precious oxygen steadily get to where they need to in the body, carbon dioxide and other waste substances are ejects from the bloodstream.
Factors That Affect the Heart
Having a full grasp of what the heart is and how it operates, it’s time to move on to what factors significantly affect the heart and how it functions.
Considering how truly complex the heart and its mechanisms are, various factors can considerably impact how the heart functions, positively and negatively.
Some factors that have been proven to influence the heart rate include:
- Emotional stress
- Body temperature
- Certain types of medication
- Cardiovascular diseases
- The blood glucose level
The above are only a few of the various factors that can, in one way or the other, influence your heart rate and, consequently, the way your heart performs.
Now, while each of the various factors above bears careful and extensive looking into, the primary focus will be on hormones.
You may be wondering why hormones? The answer to this is simple.
Unlike how factors like body temperature, illness, and exercise affect your heart rate, how hormones impact, how the heart functions are unique. Reading on, you’ll start to see why.
Quite several hormones affect how the heart performs to a greater or lesser degree.
However, we will be mainly focusing on the effect that two hormones, in particular, have on the human heart and heart rate.
The hormones in question are the thyroid hormone and estrogen.
Perhaps only the effect of estrogen rivals that of the thyroid hormone on the heart.
The thyroid hormone is a vital hormone, not just to the proper and effective functioning of the heart but also to the well-being of the entire human body.
Thyroid hormone is produced by the thyroid gland, which is positioned around the base of the throat in humans.
The effects of this hormone on the human body are quite significant as it does everything from the influence of cholesterol level in your blood to how high or low your blood pressure turns out.
Perhaps its most significant impact on your well-being is the fact that it is a major determinant when it comes to establishing the speed as well as the force of each heartbeat.
This means how well or poorly a thyroid gland performs directly on the heart’s performance.
The thyroid hormone so primarily affects the heart that complications relating to the thyroid gland are more often than not misconstrued for heart problems.
Sadly, in individuals that have existing heart problems or disorders, should the thyroid gland start under-performing or over-performing, it invariably makes that condition far worse.
When the thyroid level of a person drops, or if the individual in question possesses a thyroid gland that isn’t functioning as well as it should, the heart rate decreases in response.
This process automatically triggers a change in the entire body system.
All systems within the body will slow down, leading to the display of various signs and symptoms such as sudden weight gain, high sensitivity to cold, dry skin, and a severe case of constipation.
The presence or absence of thyroid hormone in the human body affects it in various ways.
For example, if there is an insufficient amount of hormone present in the body at a particular time, this condition is known as Hypothyroidism.
However, if the quantity of thyroid hormone secreted into the body is more than the body’s requirements, it is referred to as Hyperthyroidism.
Both these conditions affect the heart rate in various ways and will be discussed concisely below.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the amount of the thyroid hormone produced and released into the body isn’t sufficient to cater to the body’s needs.
This is what leads to the heart rate slowing down significantly. As such, the arteries aren’t as elastic as they would be under normal circumstances.
What occurs next is an increase in blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, and hardened arteries, to mention a few consequences.
These occur when the amount of the thyroid hormone is being produced and released into the body is insignificant excess of what the body would generally require.
While this complication isn’t as common as Hypothyroidism, its effects are no less dangerous.
When it occurs, it increases the rate at which your heart beats such that it might become very noticeable.
Other impacts of Hyperthyroidism include intolerance to heat, serious weight loss, and severe hunger, to mention a few.
While the effects of this hormone are more predominantly visible in females, it certainly merits a careful once-over, where its impact on the heart is concerned.
The effect this hormone has on the heart and its operations is so massive that it’s all not wholly understood.
However, some facts about the influence it holds over the proper functioning of the heart have been carefully established.
As we might’ve mentioned before, the way that certain hormones influence the heart and the cardiovascular system tends to switch between positive and negative.
Some established effects of estrogen include:
- Estrogen supports the presence and increase of high-density lipoprotein, the right kind of cholesterol in the body.
- Plays a significant role in reducing the amount of Low-density lipoprotein, the wrong kind of cholesterol found in the body.
- It also encourages the formation of blood clots. However, other activities it carries out in the body retards this formation process as well.
- It promotes and increases the free flow of blood in the body.
- It also plays a role in the elimination of materials that can pose a threat to arteries found in the bloodstream.
Other evidence would also support the fact that the presence of estrogen in younger women increases their chances of not having heart diseases.
It has also been observed that the older a woman grows, the less the amount of estrogen she can produce.
These would explain why older women become increasingly susceptible to heart problems and disorders as they age.