The heart is at the center of your circulatory system, which is a network of blood vessels that delivers blood to every part of your body. Blood carries oxygen and other important nutrients that all body organs need to stay healthy and to work properly. Your heart is a muscle, and its job is to pump blood throughout your circulatory system. Your heart relaxes to fill with blood and then squeezes (contracts) to pump the blood. The atria (thin-walled chambers that receive blood from the veins) and ventricles (thick-walled chambers that forcefully pump blood out of the heart) work together, alternately contracting and relaxing to pump blood through your heart. The pulmonary artery exits the heart, splitting into two main branches, bringing blood to the lungs. In the lungs, blood will pick up oxygen and drop off carbon dioxide. The oxygen-rich blood then returns to the heart through the pulmonary veins, so it can be pumped through your arteries to the rest of your body. Having oxygen in your bloodstream helps replace cells that wear out, provides energy for our bodies, supports the way our immune system functions and more.
Your heart has four valves between the atrium and the ventricle on each side of your heart, one for each chamber of the heart and their purpose is to keep your blood flowing in the correct direction in and out of the chambers, designed to keep blood flowing forward only. These valves include the mitral valve, tricuspid valve, pulmonary valve and aortic valve. Each valve has flaps (leaflets or cusps) that open and close once during each heartbeat. When each chamber contracts, a valve opens to allow blood to flow out. When the chamber relaxes, the valve closes to prevent blood from leaking back into the chamber and to allow the chamber to fill with blood again. Blood flows from the right atrium into the right ventricle through the open tricuspid valve, and from the left atrium into the left ventricle through the open mitral valve. As the right ventricle begins to contract, the pulmonic valve is forced open. Blood is pumped out of the right ventricle through the pulmonic valve into the pulmonary artery to the lungs. As the left ventricle begins to contract, the aortic valve is forced open. Blood is pumped out of the left ventricle through the aortic valve into the aorta. The aorta branches into many arteries and provides blood to the body. This pattern is repeated, causing blood to flow continuously to the heart, lungs, and body.
When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of tube-shaped blood vessels, which include arteries, veins and capillaries. A blood pressure test gives you two readings along with your pulse rate. Your blood pressure is the force of your blood moving through your blood vessels, and your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. The first blood pressure number is your Systolic blood pressure which indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when your heart is beating. Diastolic blood pressure is the second number and this indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while your heart is resting in between beats. What’s normal will vary from person to person, but there are guidelines and dangers for a blood pressure that is too high, as well as for one that is too low. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term buildup of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
High blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms and that’s why it is so dangerous, but it can be managed. Nearly half of the American population over age 20, has HBP, and many don’t even know it. It is a good idea to have your blood pressure checked regularly, because it is a silent killer. Not treating high blood pressure is dangerous, as High Blood Pressure increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure could be damaging your arteries, your heart, and other organs unnoticed while you are going about your day.
Heart rate and blood pressure do not necessarily increase at the same rate; thus, a rising heart rate does not cause your blood pressure to increase at the same rate. Heart rate, also called pulse, is the number of times your heart beats per minute. Even though your heart is beating more times a minute, healthy blood vessels dilate (get larger) to allow more blood to flow through more easily. When you exercise, your heart speeds up so more blood can reach your muscles. It may be possible for your heart rate to double safely, while your blood pressure may respond by only increasing a modest amount. For most adults, a resting heart rate of 50 to 100 beats per minute is considered normal. People who exercise regularly often have lower resting heart rates.