How does the heart work?

Professor Hallux is here to explain!

logoswWell, it’s actually pretty simple!

Inside the heart there are four chambers (two at the top and two at the bottom) which together to squeeze blood around your body.

You can feel this pumping by feeling your pulse.

To do this, place two fingers on the side of your neck or on your wrist.  Every pulse beat is a pump.


Did you know?

Your heart beats over 100,000 times every day, pumping 7,200 litres of blood! That’s enough to fill a paddling pool!

StopwatchWhy do we need blood?

Blood’s most important job is to pick up oxygen from our lungs and carry it around the body to every cell and organ.

The heart can pump blood around your body in less than a minute.

How does it travel so fast? 


If you’ve been on the motorway in a car or gone up on an escalator, you’ll know that when everyone is going the same way, you can go much faster.

In the same way, our arteries, veins, and capillaries all carry blood in one direction only.

To stop blood going backwards your heart has strong valves on the entries and exits.

What are valves?

Valves are like heavy doors that only open one way.


Did you know?

When a doctor listens to your heart beat with a stethoscope, he’s actually listening to the noise of heart valves snapping shut.

Sometimes the valves don’t work quite as well as they should.

This can be caused by an infection, getting older, and sometimes people are just born with faulty valves. They might be fine to be left alone, may  be treated with medicine, but sometimes an operation may help the heart to work more efficiently.


They’ll be finding out all about the cool stuff that goes on inside your heart and how it manages to pump blood around your body all the time – even when you’re asleep!

You can listen to Professor Hallux on:

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> Visit the Heart Beat homepage
> Download the free Heart Beat podcast from iTunes

Professor Hallux’s Heart Beat funding thanks to a Heart Research UK healthy heart grant!