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All About The Heart: Dr. Starbuck Explains

The anatomy of the heart.
cori kindred via flickr (public domain)
The anatomy of the heart.

Hi! I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck, a naturopathic family physician. I’m here today with health tips for kids about: the heart.

Your heart is a muscle. It’s also an organ, which means it’s a body part with a very specific job. The heart’s job is to get blood to the lungs for fresh oxygen, and then to pump that blood all over the body.

Take your right hand, hold it up and make a fist. Then put your fist in the center of your chest, and slide it a little to the left. That’s where your heart is, and it’s about the same size as your fist.

Inside your heart are four different chambers, two on top called atria and two on the bottom called ventricles. In between the chambers are valves, which are a lot like doors. They open to let blood flow from one chamber to another. Then they close, to keep blood inside the chamber. The way your heart works is that blood from all over your body travels through blood vessels and gets dumped into the right atrium. This blood does not have much oxygen left in it because body parts, like muscles and your brain, have gobbled up the oxygen in order to work.

When the right atrium is filled with blood, the valve at the bottom, called the tricuspid valve, opens and blood flows down into the right ventricle. When the right ventricle is filled with blood, the tricuspid valve closes, the pulmonary valve at the bottom of the ventricle opens. Blood flows out of your heart and into the vessels of your lungs. When you breathe, your lungs fill with oxygen and that fresh oxygen goes into your blood.

The next step is that the blood loaded up with oxygen travels back to your left atrium. When it fills with blood, the valve at the bottom, called the mitral valve, opens and blood flows into the left ventricle. When the ventricle is full, the mitral valve closes and the valve at the bottom, called the aortic valve, opens. Blood with lots and lots of oxygen is then pumped all over your body.

You can feel your heart valves opening and closing if you take your fingers and put them very lightly on your chest where your heart is. Be patient, listen with your fingers. Pretty soon you’ll feel your heart, pump, pump, pump, pump. You can also feel your heart beat by putting your fingers on your neck just below your ear or by putting your fingers on your wrist, below your thumb. Doctors call this pump, pump, pump your pulse. We listen to it and count it to see how your heart is working.

For your heart to do its best, you need to take care of it. Eat foods that are red or blue or purple in color – like blueberries and raspberries, cherries, plums and even beets; they’re great for your heart. Get exercise every day so you bring lots of fresh oxygen into your lungs.

Learn how to calm your heart down. When we are angry or frightened or stressed, our heart beats really fast. That’s ok for a little while, but our heart really appreciates it when it can slow down. You can do this by taking slow deep breaths, and by stretching and walking.

Every single second of every single day, whether you’re awake or asleep, whether you’re running or eating or watching a movie or taking a bath, your heart is steadily pumping blood into your blood vessels and all around your body. It’s keeping you alive, keeping you healthy. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck, and I’m wishing you well.