Frequently Asked Questions: Heart

  • How does the heart work?
  • A muscular organ, the heart has two pumps that are divided into an upper chamber (atrium) and lower chamber (ventricle). These chambers are linked by passageways with valves to ensure blood flow in one direction. The lower left ventricle works the hardest, pumping blood into the body through the aorta, the largest artery in the body. In turn, this chamber of the heart has the greatest need for oxygenated blood.

    The blood's cycle through the body begins when oxygen-depleted blood returns to the heart, entering the upper right atrium via the largest veins (venae cavea). Blood passes through a valve from the right atrium to the lower right ventricle. The blood is then pumped through the pulmonary artery into the lungs where it receives oxygen.

    Freshly oxygenated blood then flows from the lungs through the pulmonary veins into the left atrium and then into the left ventricle. From the left ventricle, blood is pumped through the aorta to supply the body.
  • What triggers angina?
  • Angina occurs when the heart needs more oxygen from the blood. Physical activity often triggers angina. Other triggers include emotional stress, extreme cold or heat, heavy meals, alcohol, and cigarette smoking.
  • When should EECP® treatment be used for angina?
  • EECP® treatment may be used to treat any patient with chronic unstable angina, but it is usually reserved for patients taking medication that is losing its effectiveness.
  • How does angina affect people?
  • Angina restricts the activities of many patients. They are able to walk, but not uphill or carrying packages. For some patients, angina is disabling, interfering with their ability to work or engage in various activities.
  • How is angina avoided?
  • Doctors recommend controlling the risk factors that contribute to underlying coronary artery disease. These risk factors include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, high blood cholesterol levels, and obesity.
  • What is the first line of treatment for angina?
  • Angina is usually controlled by medication that helps increase the supply of oxygen to the oxygen-deprived heart muscle by dilating coronary vessels or decreasing the demand for oxygen. Unfortunately, in most patients, medication becomes less effective over time.