Most bye weeks in the NFL are filled with a bit of relaxation and rehabilitation for the players as well as game planning and preparation.  In possibly a worst case scenario, the Denver Broncos return from the bye week without their head coach.  John Fox will have to undergo heart surgery to replace his aortic valve.  He began feeling symptomatic while playing golf this past week and was immediately taken to the hospital.  This is a very serious matter and its best that he receives immediate medical attention.  I wanted to take some time today to discuss the anatomy and function of the heart.

The heart has four chambers: two atria and two ventricles.  Valves open and close to allow blood to flow from one chamber to the next.  They must seal shut to keep these chambers separate and prevent blood from going backwards through the heart.

The flow of blood is essential to understanding the function of the heart.  As blood comes enters, it first reaches the right atrium then proceeds to the right ventricle.  It pumps through the pulmonary valve to the lungs where the blood is infused with oxygen.  When the oxygen-rich blood returns to the heart, it enters the left atrium.  It finally reaches the left ventricle before exiting the aortic valve.  The blood leaves the heart through the aorta and pumps to the rest of the body.

As I mentioned, the integrity of the heart valves keeps the blood flowing in the right direction and ensures the heart is functioning properly.  In the case of John Fox, the aortic valve wasn’t functioning properly.  This could lead to a build-up of blood following a contraction, called afterload.  The problem is that not enough blood is pumped out, leaving a reservoir in the ventricle.  Surgical options include a mechanical valve replacement or replacement with a pig or horse valve.

The heart is arguably the most important organ and muscle in the human body.  To keep it functioning properly, be sure to engage in aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week.