The Heart Is More Than a Simple Muscle

There are three categories of muscle in the human body: skeletal (responsible for moving the skeleton), smooth (associated with internal organs), and cardiac. Cardiac muscle is the highly specialized type of muscle that is found in the heart. In fact, the heart is the only place in the entire body where you can find this extraordinary type of muscle. Cardiac muscle is striated (like skeletal muscle), yet it functions involuntarily (without you thinking about it, much like smooth muscle). The tissues within the heart are amazingly strong and robust. The heart’s regular and continuous contractions pump oxygen rich blood to every organ, tissue, and all 50 trillion cells of the human body. Your heart first started beating on day 22 of fetal development. It is designed to never stop beating until the moment you take your last breath. Since you started reading this article, your heart has had to pump at least 50 times. In the next 24 hours it will beat another 100,000 times.

Although the heart has several layers, the thickest and most muscular layer of the heart is called the myocardium (my-oh-CARD-ee-uhm). This is the hard-working tissue that forms the walls of the heart. Myocardial cells do something quite amazing. They are the only muscle cells in the body that can conduct electrical impulses. This enables them to send electrical signals (like nerves do) while at the same time being able to contract and function as muscle cells do.

The cardiac cycle is a complex series of events that take place every single time your heart beats. Each event from the transmission of electric impulses, opening and closing of valves, and relaxation and contraction of muscle cells must be perfectly timed and executed in order for the heart to function efficiently.

During your lifetime your heart will do more physical work than any other muscle in your entire body. According to some sources, it is believed to pump about 1 million barrels of blood during the course of a person’s lifetime.

Because the heart is the most important muscle in your body, steps need to be taken to keep it healthy and strong. Ways to maintain cardiac health include keeping a healthy weight because being overweight puts unnecessary strain on the heart. Reducing the amount of fats you eat is also very important because eating too many fatty foods can cause fat deposits to form around the heart and within the myocardium. Regular exercise is also essential because exercise strengthens the heart and…

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