Structure of the human heart. Oxygen-rich blood from the lungs enters the heart through the …—© Merriam-Webster Inc.

Organ that pumps blood, circulating it to all parts of the body (see circulation). The human heart is a four-chambered double pump with its right and left sides fully separated by a septum and subdivided on both sides into an atrium above and a ventricle below. The right atrium receives venous blood from the superior and inferior venae cavae (see vena cava) and propels it into the pulmonary circulation. The left atrium takes in blood from the pulmonary veins and sends it into the systemic circulation. Electrical signals from a natural pacemaker cause the heart muscle to contract. Valves in the heart keep blood flowing in one direction. Their snapping shut after each contraction causes the sounds heard as the heartbeat. See also cardiovascular system.

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