What is the Healthy Heart
As humans we understand the benefits of a healthy cardiovascular system.
The cardio (heart) and vascular (vessel) system in good health keeps the
body running efficiently. In the article last month I discussed the healthy
heart. In an unhealthy heart there are many problems that occur
as a chain reaction. Our pets are affected in the same way.
A quick review of the heart. In mammals it is a four chambered
organ. The left side of the heart receives freshly oxygenated blood from
the lungs. The heart pushes this rejuvenated blood to all parts of the
body such as muscles, kidneys, liver and bone. The oxygen in this
blood is used for many chemical reactions such as the citric acid cycle
in the mitochondria of each cell. This keeps the cells alive. New
cells can be made if the cells are healthy with oxygen . The used
blood has reduced oxygen. It is returned to the right side of the heart
to go through the oxygen cycle again.
The heart muscle is the strongest muscle in the body. It is in
continual use. With each strong push it sends blood from one chamber
to the next. The valves in between the chambers keep the blood from
flowing backward. In addition there are nerve centers which act as pacemakers
to tell the heart muscle how fast to contract and how to maintain blood
pressure. If the oxygen evel is high enough the heart can slow
down such as during sleep or with extreme fitness. If there is not enough
oxygen the heart rate will increase and perhaps shut down certain distant
areas of blood flow to maintain enough oxygen to the highest priority areas.
This happens with shock or overexertion. When the oxygen can be received
by each cell there is a steady state of health. However decreased oxygen
can lead to cell death. This may be caused by a lack of red blood
cells( bleeding or anemic situations). If the cells are diseased
(trauma, infection, cancer) the oxygen may not reach the cells and cell
death occurs. Naturally we loose cells by death everyday. However,
a healthy body continues to replace them.. With age cells fail to be replaced
effectively (brain cells).
There are several tools to help assess cardiovascular function.
In veterinary practice Electrocarograph(EKG), Radigraphs (X-Rays),
Oxygen Saturation (Pulse oximeter), Ultrasound, Magnetic Resonance (MRI)
Auscultation (Stethescope) and Blood work determine what if
any disease is present.
Many factors help maintain the effects of a healthy heart. Our
pets must have fitness , proper nutrition, freedom from parasites
and a stress free environment. My next article will discuss effects of
an unhealthy heart.