How your heart works
What is your heart?
Your heart is about the size of your clenched fist. It lies in the front and middle of your chest, behind and slightly to the left of your breastbone.
It is a muscle that pumps blood to all parts of your body to provide it with the oxygen and nutrients in needs to function.
Your heart has the right and left separated by a wall. Each side has a small chamber called the atrium (pronounced ay-tree-um), which leads into a large pumping chamber called a ventricle (pronounced ven-tri-kl). There are 4 chambers:
- left atrium
- left ventricle
- right atrium
- right ventricle.
The right side of your heart
The right side of your heart collects blood on its return from the rest of your body.
The blood entering the right side of your heart is low in oxygen. This is because oxygen is removed from your blood as it circulates through your body's organs and tissues.
Your heart then pumps the blood to your lungs so it can receive more oxygen.
Once it has received oxygen, your blood returns directly to the left side of your heart, which then pumps it out again to all parts of your body.
The left side of your heart
The left ventricle of your heart is larger and thicker than the right ventricle. This is because it has to pump the blood further around the body, and against higher pressure, compared with the right ventricle.
To make sure your blood flows in the correct direction, valves guard the entrance and exits of your hearts chambers.
Where to get help
- Always dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance in a medical emergency
- See your doctor
- Visit a GP after hours
- Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222
- Phone the Heart Foundation’s Health Information Service on 1300 362 787
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