The heart is the muscular organ of the circulatory system that constantly pumps blood throughout the body. Approximately the size of a clenched fist, the heart is composed of cardiac muscle tissue that is very strong and able to contract and relax rhythmically throughout a person's lifetime.
The heart has four separate compartments or chambers. The upper chamber on each side of the heart, which is called an atrium, receives and collects the blood coming to the heart. The atrium then delivers blood to the powerful lower chamber, called a ventricle, which pumps blood away from the heart through powerful, rhythmic contractions.
The human heart is actually two pumps in one. The right side receives oxygen-poor blood from the various regions of the body and delivers it to the lungs. In the lungs, oxygen is absorbed in the blood. The left side of the heartreceives the oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and delivers it to the rest of the body.
The contraction of the cardiac muscle tissue in the ventricles is called systole. When the ventricles contract, they force the blood from their chambers into the arteries leaving the heart. The left ventricle empties into the aorta and the right ventricle into the pulmonary artery. The increased pressure due to the contraction of the ventricles is called systolic pressure.
The relaxation of the cardiac muscle tissue in the ventricles is called diastole. When the ventricles relax, they make room to accept the blood from the atria. The decreased pressure due to the relaxation of the ventricles is called diastolic pressure.
The heart is composed primarily of muscle tissue. A network of nerve fibers coordinates the contraction and relaxation of the cardiac muscle tissue to obtain an efficient, wave-like pumping action of the heart.
The Sinoatrial Node (often called the SA node or sinus node) serves as the natural pacemaker for the heart. Nestled in the upper area of the right atrium, it sends the electrical impulse that triggers each heartbeat. The impulse spreads through the atria, prompting the cardiac muscle tissue to contract in a coordinated wave-like manner.
The impulse that originates from the sinoatrial node strikes the Atrioventricular node (or AV node) which is situated in the lower portion of the right atrium. The atrioventricular node in turn sends an impulse through the nerve network to the ventricles, initiating the same wave-like contraction of the ventricles.
The electrical network serving the ventricles leaves the atrioventricular node through the Right and Left Bundle Branches. These nerve fibers send impulses that cause the cardiac muscle tissue to contract.