Your Heart: How it Works
Your heart is a muscular pump with a very demanding job: to pump oxygen-rich blood to every part of your body. Once your body's tissues have taken the oxygen needed, the oxygen-depleted blood is returned to the two chambers on the right side of your heart. These chambers then pump the blood into your lungs, where it is replenished with fresh oxygen and returned to the left side of your heart.
During the heart's work phase, the two left chambers of your heart pump the newly oxygenated blood throughout your body once again. The oxygen-rich blood leaves your heart through the aorta, which is the largest artery in your body.
Of course, your heart needs its own continuous supply of fuel in order to work efficiently. It has a network of oxygen supply lines called coronary arteries, which begin at the base of your aorta and surround your heart muscle in the same way the fingers of your hand wrap around a ball.
Coronary Heart Disease
Just like the plumbing in your house, your coronary arteries can become clogged. Coronary artery disease develops when fatty deposits called plaque accumulate in the lining of these arteries, which can cause several things to happen:
- The lining of the artery becomes thicker and rougher
- Plaque buildup makes it harder for blood to flow through the artery
- The heart has to work harder to pump blood
- The plaque may rupture, causing a blood clot that can completely block the artery, which stops the supply of blood to the heart muscle
If one or more arteries become blocked, heart tissue doesn't get the blood supply it needs to function. The results can range from mild chest pain (angina) to a severe heart attack.