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The heart is a muscular organ whose interior is divided into two pairs of chambers, one on the right, the other on the left; the chambers of each pair are connected with each other by a valve. Lying in the mid-left section of the chest, close to the breastbone, the human heart weighs about 12 ounces, beats 70 to 80 times a minute, and is enclosed by a sturdy membrane called pericardium. Its chambers are lined by a delicate membrane, the endocardium, and its vigorous muscular and connective tissues are nourished by the heart’s own blood vessels, the coronary vessels.

How the Heart Works

This remarkable muscle serves as a pump controlling the blood stream in two circuits, the pulmonary and the systemic. The right side of the heart receives the blood from the large veins that drain the systemic circuit and propels it into the lungs where carbon dioxide is removed and oxygen is picked up. The oxygenated blood, collecting in the pulmonary veins, than enters the left side of the heart, from which it is pumped out again into the systemic circulation by way of the body’s largest blood vessel, the aorta. The rhythmic pumping is in the form of a repeated contraction ( systole ) and relaxation (diastole). Every 60 seconds, this precisely adjusted human pump drives about five quarts of blood through the body.

Auricles and Ventricles

The four chambers of the heart have special roles in the pumping process. The upper chambers are called the auricles; the lower chambers, the ventricles. The auricle and ventricle on each side together form an independent part of the heart, somewhat like a duplex apartment; in effect, they make up a “right heart” and a “left heart”. There is no connection for the blood into

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