Where the heart is located
Do you know where the heart is located exactly in a human body? People often get confused about the exact location of the heart. You might have heard people saying “Is it on the left side?” or “Is the heart in the middle of my chest?” But these questions are of no surprise to us, as many people do not know the answer to this question.
The main reason for people asking this question is that they sometimes face some chest pain. But with the passage of time, you might have realized that most of the times it is only a temporary sensation that fades away after a few minutes, two three hours or even after a few days. This could be anything: gas, muscle pull or even anxiety. We all get alarmed when we get a sudden chest pain, but it can be normal.
However, sometimes a chest pain could be a sign of something serious too. So ignoring the chest pain or any other pain in the body can turn out to be harmful to your health.
The heart is only the size of the fist, and it is exactly located behind the sternum (breastbone) and is slightly to the left of center. Now if you put your hand in the center of your chest, move it a bit towards the left side. This is where the heart is located.
Now if you are feeling pressure or pain exactly where the heart is located, that does not mean that you have a heart attack. Likewise, if you feel pain in some other part of the body that does not mean you do not have a heart attack either. So it is important for you to know a few basic things related to your heart.
What is the heart?
The heart is a hollow muscular organ that pumps blood through the circulatory system with a rhythmic contraction and dilation. It has a double pump feature that transports blood away and back to the heart. The blood coming to the right atrium is returning from all over the body before it is sent to the lungs for re-oxygenation. The average weight of the human heart is 6 and 11 ounces. The muscles of the heart are strong enough to pump about 2000 gallons of blood through the body every day.
The function of the heart:
The human heart is the organ which is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body via the circulatory system. It supplies the oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removes the carbon dioxide and other waste products. The arteries and veins play the role of carrying oxygenated and deoxygenated blood, respectively. The lungs give the place for exchanging carbon dioxide with oxygen.
The structure of the heart:
The four chambers of the human heart are the right atrium, the right ventricle, the left atrium and the left ventricle. Comparatively, the atria have thinner and less muscular walls than the ventricles.
The deoxygenated blood entering the inferior vena cava goes into the right atrium first and then passes on to the right ventricle through the tricuspid valve. From here the blood then goes into the lungs and is re-oxygenated there. After the blood is purified, it goes into the left atrium via the bicuspid valve and then to the left ventricle. Now, the oxygenated blood is sent to the aorta which supplies the blood to the whole body.
The structure of the heart wall:
The heart wall is composed of three layers known as the epicardium, the myocardium, and the endocardium.
The inner wall of the heart is of endocardium which is thin and smooth. The middle layer is of myocardium that is the bulk of the heart. The outer most layers of the heart muscle cells are of the epicardium. The second layer of epicardium is a membranous layered structure called the pericardium, surrounds and protects the heart. Where the heart is located, friction could be produced between the heart and other structures. That is why the pericardium is present.
The thickness of the heart wall is different in various parts. The myocardium layer in the atria is very thin hence it does not pump blood very far but only to the nearby ventricles. On the other hand, the ventricles have a thicker muscular wall of the myocardium. That is the reason why this part of the heart pumps blood throughout your body.
Where the heart is located, the double layer of the pericardium which protects the heart is connected to the diaphragm, spinal column, and other parts by strong ligaments.
Many of us don’t know the little facts about the blood vessels of our body. Where the heart is located, the blood vessels around it are different to other blood vessels. The coronary arteries branch from the aorta and then diverge into capillaries where the heart is supplied with oxygen.
The superior vena cava, inferior vena cava, the pulmonary arteries, and aorta are all the blood vessels that are present where the heart is located.
You might be thinking that the pains occurring, where the heart is located, are always harmful. But wait. Sometimes, this might be because of muscle contraction or gas either. But you should know when the chest pains are related to the heart.
When are chest pains related to heart?
Knowing where the heart is located cannot correctly tell if the pain is heart-related. Let’s discuss different chest pains which are connected to the heart.
- Heart Attack
A heart attack is the result of occluded blood vessels that carry blood to the heart. The patients might come across these experiences: a squeezing sensation in the chest that may come and go or last a few minutes, the pain radiates to the jaw, neck, and arms. Additionally, a person might face difficulty in breathing, swallowing and vomiting.
As the Association of American Family Physician tells, the pain moving towards the arms is a strong indicator of a heart attack. However, sharp pain is not always a sign of heart attack.
When enough blood is not supplied to the heart muscles, it leads to angina. The pain experienced in angina is somewhat similar to that of the heart attack. The angina pain can increase due to physical exertion and might disappear on relaxing. But if you feel the pain even in the state of rest then it means your condition is pretty unstable. This may increase the risk of heart attack.
- Sometimes, many people do not experience chest pain where the heart is locatedwhen having a heart attack but this might be detected by inexplicable nausea, sweating and vomiting. In cases like these, it is important to seek medical help.
- If the discomfort does not last 15 minutes, then you must look out for professional help.
Other causes of chest pain:
Now that you know where the heart is located, you need to know when the chest pain is not related to the heart.
Chest pains often occur due to the following digestive disorders:
It is a painful, burning sensation behind the sternum which is because of high acidity in the esophagus.
- Swallowing Disorder
Swallowing becomes difficult as well as painful in esophageal disorders.
- Pancreatic or Gallbladder Issues
The inflammation in the pancreas or gallbladder or the presence of gallstones can cause the pain in the chest.
Muscle and Bone Problems
A few chest pains are caused by the muscles and bones present where the heart is located. Let’s learn about the structural problems that lead to chest pain.
The pain and inflammation in the cartilage (the connective tissue connecting the breastbone and ribs) cause chest pain.
- Sore Muscles
Chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia can cause continuous muscle pain.
- Injured Ribs
This chest pain is caused by a broken or injured rib.
The chest pains are triggered because of these following lung disorders:
- Pulmonary Embolism:
This happens when there is a disturbance in the blood flow caused by lodged blood clot in the pulmonary artery.
Inflammation of the membrane that covers the lungs might cause chest pain on heavy breathing and coughing.
- Collapsed Lung
The collapsed lungs result from the leakage of air into the spaces between lungs and ribs. This leads to chest pain that lasts for hours.
- Pulmonary Hypertension
When the blood pressure is high in the pulmonary arteries, it leads to chest pain.
Other causes of chest pain:
Chest pains also result from restlessness or anxiety. Other reasons that cause chest pain are the following:
- Panic Attack
Intense periods of fear, chest pain, increased heartbeat, sweating, and shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea can be brought about by panic attacks.
The reactivation of chickenpox virus triggers the pain in the chest.
As we have talked about where the heart is located and how does it function, a few more functions take place only in the area where the heart is located.
As we talked earlier about the chambers of the heart (the atria and the ventricles), they may be found in one of the following states:
- Systole: While in the state of systole, cardiac muscle tissue contracts to push blood out of the chamber.
- Diastole: when the cardiac muscle cells relax, it allows the chamber to fill with blood. During the ventricular systole and ventricular diastole, the blood pressure increases and decreases respectively. This can be seen by the 2 numbers of blood pressure; 120 (systolic blood pressure) and 80 (diastolic blood pressure).
The Cardiac Cycle:
Atrial systole, ventricular systole and relaxation are the 3 major phases that take place during one heartbeat.
- Atrial Systole: During this phase of the cardiac cycle, the atria contract and push blood into the ventricles. The atria are smaller in size as compared to the ventricles, so they fill up to only 25% of the ventricles in this phase.
- Ventricular Systole: In this phase, the ventricles contract to push the blood into the aorta and pulmonary trunk.
- Relaxation phase: All four chambers are in the state of diastole in the relaxation phase as blood flows from the heart to the veins. The ventricles at this time are filled with about 75% with blood and get filled only after the atria enter the systole.
Fun facts related to heart:
- Your blood is about 78% water, and it takes about only 20 seconds to circulate in the entire vascular system.
- The average heart rate is 72 beats/minute, which is an average of 100,000 beats per day.
- The system of blood vessels; arteries, ventricles, and capillaries is more than 60,000 miles long.
This small organ present in the human body plays a major role in our survival because things are done with perfection only where the heart is located!