Heart Valves and Circulation

Updated:Sep 21,2016
What's the problem?
heart valve functions diagram

Properly Working System

To fully understand your valve condition or the problems you or your loved one may be facing, it helps to understand the basics of heart valves and circulation.

Heart Chambers and Valves

The heart’s job is to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the entire body so that every cell can thrive.

Blood always flows through the system in the same pattern: coming from the body, passing through the right side of heart, then out to the lungs to receive oxygen, then passing back through the left side of the heart and then traveling out to the body.

What is the purpose of the heart chambers?

blood flow animation

Watch a blood flow animation

The normal heart has two distinct sides and four “holding areas” called chambers for circulating blood.

  • The upper chambers – called the right atrium and the left atrium – collect blood flowing in from the body and in from the lungs.
  • The lower chambers – called ventricles – collect blood from the atria then pump it forcefully out.
    • The right ventricle pumps out to the lungs.
    • The left ventricle pumps to the aorta and out to the body.

What is the job of heart valves? Why are valves important for circulation and health?

Each heart valve has two important functions:

To open correctly so that blood can empty from the chamber

To close properly so that blood cannot flow the wrong way

When the valves and chambers fail to move blood properly, symptoms may eventually develop and may require critically important treatment.

Learn more about the roles of your heart valves.

This content was last reviewed May 2016.

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Our Interactive Cardiovascular Library has detailed animations and illustrations to help you learn about conditions, treatments and procedures related to heart disease and stroke.

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