Harvard Heart Letter

Special section: Cardiovascular connections: Two-way street between heart and health

Special section: Cardiovascular connections

Two-way street between heart and health

The thigh bone's connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone's connected to the leg bone...

If there were such a thing as the heart bone, it would be smack in the middle of each line of the old spiritual, "Dem Bones." Once thought of as a solitary, aloof pump, the heart is now known to affect, and be affected by, all parts of the body. Some of the connections reflect the widespread impact of artery-clogging atherosclerosis. Others underscore the intimate relationships between body parts. In this special section, we explore the myriad connections between the heart and other organs and tissues.

illustration of the heart's connections to other parts of the body

Heart

The heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime, pushing blood to every part of the body. This steady flow carries with it oxygen, fuel, hormones, and a host of other essential molecules, and whisks away the waste products of metabolism. When the heart stops, essential functions fail, some almost instantly. The heart and arteries are in constant communication with all body parts, getting vital feedback from them.

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