How does the Heart Work? Heart Health 101.

August 13, 2017

Think of the circulatory system as a complex distribution center.

This is Dr. Jim for Be Healthy! Be Happy! College of Heart Health – Heart Health 101.

If you stretched all the blood vessels in the body – arteries, veins and capillaries end to end, how long would that be? Many sources estimate as many as sixty miles!

And what muscle in our body contracts 4300 times an hour; 104,000 times a day; over 37 million times a year and 3 billion times in a 78-year lifespan? The heart, of course!

Together the incredible heart, and the body’s vast network of blood vessels, make up the circulatory system.

Think of the circulatory system as the body’s distribution center. Combined with the heart, the vast network of blood vessels both large and small, work to distribute oxygen rich blood, vital nutrients and essential metabolic products throughout our bodies.

When it comes to the continual need for life giving oxygen, the circulatory system carries oxygen depleted blood back to the heart and the lungs for re-oxygenation and recycling.

Compared to other vital organs like the liver and the kidneys, the heart is relatively simple, which in many ways accounts for its longevity. The heart consists of four pumps or chambers, a set of valves, a series of bundled electrical fibers and an array of blood vessels that harmoniously work together as the command center for the circulatory system.

Vital to this entire process is the rhythmic beating of the heart, which balances the inflow and outflow of blood to and from the heart, which is essential to synchronized circulatory system function.

So, what keeps the heart rhythmically beating 3 billion times in a 78-year life span?

A unique electrical system and some very specialized muscle fibers, which is the topic of my next Heart Health 101 conversation.

This is Dr. Jim for Be Healthy! Be Happy! hoping that this message helps power your path to happiness!



Cleveland Clinic, 2003. Heart & Blood Vessels: How Does the Heart Beat? Online [Available at]: Accessed August 6, 2017.

Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. Online [available at]: