As we continue our Exploring Organs series, we are excited to highlight this blood-pumping organ, the heart!
Your heart is the center of your circulatory system, meaning it’s responsible for sending blood throughout your body as it beats. Blood acts as a vessel for oxygen, hormones and nutrients, and travels through our blood vessels to deliver what we need to different body parts.
The heart comprises of four chambers: the left atrium, right atrium, left ventricle and right ventricle. Your heart is roughly the size of your fist and carries out the following life-sustaining functions:
- Pumping oxygenated blood to the body
- Receiving deoxygenated blood from the body and pumping it to the lungs to replenish with oxygen
- Maintaining blood pressure
Heart Diseases, Conditions and Treatments
Cardiovascular diseases are conditions that impact the structure or function of the heart. The severity of conditions may vary, along with their cause. Common diseases include:
- Abnormal heart rhythm – Arrhythmias occur when the heart is beating too fast or slow. Arrhythmias can be treated with medications or medical procedures, depending on severity.
- Coronary artery disease – Coronary artery disease is a common heart condition. It occurs due to plaque in the heart’s major blood vessels that limit blood flow to the heart. Treatments include lifestyle changes, medications, stenting or surgery.
- Heart attack – Medically known as a myocardial infarction, is a blockage of blood flow to the heart. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow and thus oxygen supply to the heart.
- Congestive heart failure – A chronic condition in which the heart becomes weak and cannot pump blood as efficiently as it should. Treatments can include eating less salt, limiting fluid intake and taking prescription medications. In some cases, a defibrillator or pacemaker may be implanted. Some patients may need advanced treatments like an artificial heart pump or a heart transplant.
- High blood pressure – Also known as hypertension, is a condition in which the force of blood against the artery walls is too high. High blood pressure can be caused by not getting enough exercise, poor diet and existing conditions, such as diabetes or obesity. Treatments include lowering the amount of salt in your diet, regular exercise or medications.
How to Keep Your Heart Healthy
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It’s important to learn about your heart and how to implement healthier choices into your daily routine. The best ways to prevent heart diseases or conditions are consistent with a balanced lifestyle. A few tips are:
- Maintain a balanced diet. Try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and monitor your salt intake.
- Get active for at least 30 minutes a day. Physical activity strengthens your heart, helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your risk of weight-related heart conditions like heart failure or high blood pressure.
- Quit smoking. Chemicals in cigarette smoke cause the blood to thicken and form clots, raising your risk of heart attack, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Keep your cholesterol under control to prevent plaque buildup in your arteries. Reducing your consumption of saturated and trans fats and increasing omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber are great ways to improve your cholesterol levels.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Manage your stress. When we are stressed, our bodies produce adrenaline, which temporarily speeds up our breathing and heart rate. Adrenaline also causes blood pressure to rise, adding unnecessary strain on the heart.
- See your primary care physician regularly. It’s important to have a yearly physical to monitor your overall health and well-being so treatments and lifestyle changes can be started immediately if health issues arise.
Power of U – Patient Success Story
In March 2022, UofL Health – Jewish Hospital was home to a first-of-its-kind double transplant surgery. Michael Munday was the first recipient of a combined heart and liver transplant in Kentucky.
A team of five transplant surgeons and dozens of medical staff worked together for about 12 hours to perform the procedure and give Munday a second chance at life.
“A surgery of this magnitude would not have been possible without exhaustive collaboration between our heart and liver transplant surgeons, as well as the diligent anesthesia team and dedicated operating room nurses,” said Dylan Adamson, M.D., a transplant surgeon at UofL Health – Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center.
Nearly ten years ago, Munday, 55, started having heart trouble and says doctors told him it was operating at about 25%. In July 2021, he suffered multiple ventricular arrhythmias over a short period. His heart’s function fell to about 10%, and he spent nearly two and a half months at Jewish Hospital between July and September. Munday returned to Jewish Hospital on Jan. 6, 2022. The double transplant was performed on March 22, and Munday returned home to Graham, Kentucky, April 13 with a healthy heart and liver.
“They released me from the hospital in 22 days,” Munday said, thankful for the “top-notch staff.” “Everybody, the doctors, the nurses, the nursing aids treated me like a celebrity. I’m not 100% yet, but I’ve been feeling excellent.”
Munday is very grateful for a second chance in life.
Do you have questions about your heart health? Learn more here. If you or a loved one are concerned about your heart health, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician today. In the event of an emergency, visit one of our seven UofL Health – Emergency Departments or call 911.