The heart is similar to any pump designed as a machine to move fluid from one place to another. The heart is a machine made by God to pump blood throughout the body. As a registered nurse who has spent most of my career working in the intensive cardiac care units of several hospitals, I have found that the average person does not know how the heart works. Since “heart trouble” is so common, I offer some very (extremely) simple descriptions of the three common problems that affect the heart.
Below are four oversimplified functions of the heart:
1. The right side of the heart collects deoxygenated blood that has already circulated throughout the body. 2. The function of the right side is to collect the used blood and deliver it to the lungs to drop off CO2 and waste as it is filtered through the lungs. 3. The function of the left side of the heart is to collect the freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs. 4. With every beat of the heart, the freshly oxygenated blood is delivered throughout the entire body to nourish cells. Then the process repeats itself over and over again.
HEART PUMP PROBLEMS: For the heart to function to its optimum level, since the heart is a muscle like any other muscle in the body, it must be nourished with freshly oxygenated blood. When a problem arises, it is usually due to one or more blood vessels becoming clogged with plaque diminishing the flow which may or may not cause angina. If the blood flow is hindered from reaching any part of the muscle, this usually results in a light or massive heart attack, depending on the area of the heart that is affected. The condition of the blood vessels can be determined during a heart catherization. Preventive procedures can be done such as angioplasty with a stent placement that can correct the problem. For some situations of multiple clogged arteries, open heart surgery may be required.
HEART VALVE PROBLEMS: Four valves are responsible for moving blood forward until it is cleansed and oxygenated and ready for recirculation. They are the tricuspid valve (between the chambers of the right side), pulmonary valve (between the left ventricle and the lungs). aortic valve (between the lungs and the left side) mitral valve (between the chambers on the left side) and final step is the freshly oxygenated blood sits in the left ventricle and is ejected with each beat of the heart into the circulatory system. A dysfunctional valve can be heard with a stethoscope as a distinct murmur. However, other tests are required. The findings may require a valve replacement.
THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM: Creates a heart beat that starts in the SA node, moving to the AV node which is an automatic switch in the body, controlled to a great extent by the proper balance of chemicals in the body, but also other factors. Once the electrical impulse is initiated in the SA node, it travels down the AV node, to the bundle of HIS, then spreads out and splits into the right and left side moving down the perjunkie fibers which result in a heart beat. If the electrical impulse runs into anything that hinders the flow of electricity, it will cause a dysrhythmia.
In other words, it is like turning on a wall switch in your house that turns on a lamp across the room. If the electrical system in a house is working properly, the lamp will instantly come on; however, if there is a “short” in the electrical system, the light may “blink” off and on and not work properly.
The same thing happens in the heart which causes all types of irregular rhythms including premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) which can be dangerous. An infrequent PVC is not dangerous, but when they become frequent, they can couple up and cause Ventricular Tachycardia, then if not treated will turn into Ventricular Fibrillation which is a lethal life threatening rhythm. This phenomenon requires initiating CPR in an attempt to save a person's life. Dysrhythmias of all types should be taken seriously; however, they can be controlled with medication and cardiac pacemakers. They are diagnosed primarily with an electrocardiogram (EKG).
SUMMARY: If a person has “heart trouble," the term may cover a multitude of problems dealing with the heart. It is imperative that a person with heart trouble should absolutely use a cardiologist for treatment. Why? Because the heart is an extremely complex organ and will not wait around for a non-cardiologist doctor who "fiddles" around trying to figure out what is going on. With a "heart" problem, you can be alive one minute and dead the next. Dealing with other potential health problems, such as cancer, etc., a doctor usually has "time" to determine the proper treatment. Many problems with the heart, especially dysrhythmias, do not always give a doctor "time" to decide what to do. A cardiologist keeps up with the latest medications and treatments.