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USC - University of Southern California Cardiothoracic Surgery at University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine
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Glossary of Terms

Heart
The organ responsible for pumping blood through the lungs and body. The heart is located in the chest cavity behind the breast bone, known as the sternum.

Heart and valves

The heart is divided into the right and the left side. Each side is composed of an atrium and a ventricle. The right atrium receives the blood from the body after the body’s organs have extracted the needed oxygen. The blood in the right atrium is pumped into the right ventricle, which then pumps the blood to the lungs. In the lung, the CO2 that is in the blood is removed and new oxygen is added. The blood then flows into the left atrium. The left atrium then pumps the newly oxygenated blood to the left ventricle, which then pumps this newly oxygenated blood back out to the body’s organs.

A normal heartbeat is triggered by an electrical impulse which starts in the Sinoatrial (SA) Node. The impulse then travels across the Atrioventricular (AV) Node and triggers the ventricles to contract.

The heart is controlled by the autonomic nervous system of the brain that tells the heart to speed up or slow down depending on the body’s needs. The left heart is responsible for the blood pressure measurement you hear at the doctors office. The heart is a tireless pump. If you consider a resting heart rate of 70 beats per minute x 60 minutes per hour x 24 hours a day x 365 days per year, your heart, if you stayed at a resting heart rate of 70 would contract or "pump’ over 36 million times per year!

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