The body is composed of many different tissues and organs that all work together harmoniously to carry out specific actions necessary for life. The heart, lungs, and blood vessels of the body all work together to form the cardiovascular system, which helps to circulate nutrients, gas, and molecules throughout the body.
The heart and lungs are highly dependent on one another, and conditions that affect one can impact the other. Below is a closer look at how these organs work independently, how they work together, and ways you can support cardiovascular and pulmonary health.
The body is made of many specialized tissues and organs that perform a wide range of functions. For instance, the brain coordinates consciousness and the action of other organs, the intestines move food through the digestive tract and help to absorb nutrients, and the kidneys help to filter out nitrogenous waste products.
All of these organs are important, but they all need to be supplied with oxygen, glucose, and other molecules on a consistent basis. This is where the heart and cardiovascular system come into play.
The heart is at the center of the cardiovascular system, and it acts as a pump to help circulate blood continuously throughout the body. The heart is composed of four hollow chambers and valves that only allow for the movement of blood in one direction through the heart.
The left side of the heart consists of the left atrium and left ventricle. Unoxygenated blood enters the left atrium, which then empties to the left ventricle. The left ventricle contracts and pushes this unoxygenated blood toward the lungs to be oxygenated.
The right side of the heart consists of the right atrium and right ventricle. The right atrium receives oxygenated blood and empties into the right ventricle. The right ventricle has the most heart muscle when compared to the other chambers because it needs to eject blood with enough force to reach your entire body.
The lungs are vital organs that serve to oxygenate the blood through gas exchange. This gas exchange is accomplished thanks to specialized tissue known as alveoli, which are thin and delicate tissues that allow blood to exchange carbon dioxide with oxygen.
This process is aided by the help of supporting tissues like the trachea, bronchioles, and diaphragm, which help to bring air to the alveoli.
Ventilation (or breathing) is the process by which air is brought in and out of the lungs and consists of two main phases: inhalation and exhalation. During inhalation, the diaphragm contracts, which increases the volume of the lungs and subsequently pulls in fresh air.
With fresh air in the lungs, the blood in the alveoli puts oxygen in the blood and takes away the concentrated carbon dioxide that has built up. During exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes, decreasing the volume of the lungs and causing air (and carbon dioxide) to rush out of the lungs.
The heart and lungs are two of the primary organs responsible for delivering oxygen throughout the body and eliminating carbon dioxide waste. They work together in a highly interdependent manner — if either organ fails, it can cause considerable issues for the other.
The heart, lungs, and connecting vasculature make up the pulmonary circuit. As stated earlier, the left ventricle pushes unoxygenated blood to the lungs. The blood passes through the lungs to the alveoli through the pulmonary artery, an artery that connects the left ventricle with the lungs.
From the lungs, this freshly oxygenated blood enters the right side of the heart through the pulmonary vein. Once the blood passes through the body, delivers all its oxygen, and makes its way back to the left atrium, the circuit will begin anew.
Both the lungs and the heart cannot function without the other. The oxygenation of blood provided by the lungs helps to fuel the consistent beating of the heart. Likewise, the heart’s movement of blood is what enables the lungs to function.
By this point, you likely now understand the importance of these organs for your overall health. Unfortunately, there are many diseases and chronic conditions that can impact these important organs.
Heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart attack, and a number of other conditions can significantly impact both the heart and lungs and lead to a significant decline in overall health. These conditions may even require medical interventions, like the placement of a surgical stent.
Keeping your heart and lungs healthy is one of the best preventative measures you can take to reduce the chance of developing long-term and chronic cardiovascular conditions. Below is a closer look at four ways you can help to support these vital organs.
The choices you make on a consistent basis play a large role in your overall health and the health of your cardiovascular system. Making healthy lifestyle choices like living an active lifestyle, getting enough sleep, and eating a well-rounded diet can be immensely helpful in supporting your cardiovascular system.
Having a diet that is disproportionately high in saturated fats, trans fat, sodium, and cholesterol is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular conditions like heart disease and atherosclerosis. Opting for a heart-healthy diet that incorporates plenty of nutritious whole foods like fruits, nuts, vegetables, and healthy sources of protein can be immensely helpful in supporting a healthy heart.
Exercise is important for everyone, but especially for those who work at a desk. A sedentary lifestyle is widely viewed as the “new smoking” in terms of the detrimental health impacts it cam have on the body.
While you are resting, your cardiovascular system is not placed under a significant amount of strain. Over time, this can diminish the overall health of your cardiovascular system.
Incorporating regular physical exercise, like walking, jogging, swimming, and dancing, throughout your day can help to place a healthy level of strain on your heart and lungs to support their health.
An integral aspect of maintaining the health of your heart and lungs is getting routine preventative care and treating any underlying conditions. Conditions like diabetes, kidney problems, and conditions that directly impact the cardiovascular system can pose harm to your heart and lungs if they are not managed.
A prime example of this is high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, can pose a significant strain on organs like the heart and lungs.
High blood pressure can oftentimes go undetected, and that is why it is widely considered the “silent killer.” Getting routine preventative care and receiving treatment for hypertension can help to mitigate its detrimental effects on the heart and lungs and can help to maintain your overall wellness.
Some conditions of the heart and lungs cannot be reversed when they take hold. Chronic progressive conditions like heart failure and COPD cannot be cured, and treatments mainly revolve around reducing symptoms.
One complementary therapy program that can help support the heart and lungs in these conditions is cardiac rehab and pulmonary rehab. These programs can help to support cardiovascular health through a combination of therapeutic monitored exercise, dietary guidance, and education on their specific conditions.
Carda Health is a virtual cardiac rehab and pulmonary rehab provider that offers the same service as a traditional cardiac rehab program from the comfort of home. If eligible, patients are sent remote monitoring equipment and paired with an exercise physiologist to help create a tailored and personalized program.
The heart and lungs are vital organs that are highly interdependent on one another. The heart is responsible for circulating blood through the circulatory system, while the lungs are responsible for oxygenating the blood.
They work together to provide your body with a consistent supply of oxygen. Taking the time to live a healthy lifestyle, get regular physical activity, stay on top of your health, and take part in cardiac rehabilitation can all support your heart and lungs and encourage your overall health and well-being.
Know Your Risk for Heart Disease | cdc.gov.
The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations | American Heart Association (AHA)
Sitting is the new smoking: where do we stand? | PMC