Why The Heart Is Much More Than A Pump

Paul J. Rosch, MD, FACP

According to standard dictionaries, the heart is:

A hollow muscular organ that pumps the blood through the circulatory system
by rhythmic contraction and dilation

The organ in your chest that pumps blood through your veins and arteries

The chambered muscular organ in vertebrates that pumps blood received from the veins into the arteries, thereby maintaining the flow of blood through the entire circulatory system

None of these definitions are correct, since it is impossible for the heart to pump blood through the entire circulatory system. Ventricular contraction forces blood into the aorta and pulmonary artery, but these vessels become progressively smaller and end in 25,000 miles of capillaries. Some of these have a diameter not much larger than a red blood cell, and if laid end to end, the capillary system would cover the area of three football fields. The heart could never pump air through this complicated network, much less a viscous fluid like blood, since this would require a force or pressure capable of lifting a 100-pound weight 1 mile high…

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