How does the heart work? Putting it all together. Heart Health 101.

August 26, 2017

What keeps the heart beating 24/7/365? Automaticity!

Welcome to Be Healthy! Be Happy! The College of Heart Health – Heart Health 101. I’m Dr. Jim.

What muscle 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? You know the answer! The heart of course!

The heart’s ability to maintain non-stop lub-dub, lub-dub is no accident, but it is dependent on many factors to include uniquely bundled nerve conduits called Purkinje fibers that transmit electrical impulses to striated heart muscle, which in turn propels the rhythmic contractions known to all of us as the beating heart.

And what’s really cool? It’s all automatic. We never even need to think about it! Doctors call this “automaticity.”

Automaticity would not be possible, however, without the effects of essential minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Among other benefits, sodium works to regulate fluid balance, potassium stabilizes cell membranes, while calcium and magnesium play important roles in cell signaling, metabolic regulation, cardiac function and blood pressure.

How does this complex system all come together? That would be the subject of heart health 401. For now, let’s just call it magic!

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

PS: Dietary deficiencies in sodium and potassium are rare, however, attention to consumption of foods like tofu, yogurt, cheddar cheese, white beans, broccoli and kale are essential for calcium sufficiency, while green leafy vegetables, grains, beans and nuts are necessary for magnesium balance.


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]: