The heart is responsible for circulating blood to all organs of the body. The heart is made of four chambers, the right and left atrium and ventricle. After travelling throughout the body, oxygen-poor blood collects in the right atrium. Blood is then pumped to the right ventricle, responsible for pumping blood to the lungs. In the lungs, oxygen-poor blood is replaced with oxygen-rich blood, which then returns back to the heart collecting in the left atrium. The left atrium pumps the blood to the left ventricle, which then goes back out to the body. The heart and lungs have a direct connection, which illustrates the important relationship these two organs have. Often, conditions impacting one organ can affect the other.
Common disorders of the heart include hypertension, coronary artery disease, and myocardial infarction. Hypertension, commonly referred to as high blood pressure, is a condition in which the force of blood inside arteries is too high. If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause damaged organs such as the heart, kidney and circulatory system. Coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis is a condition where the buildup of cholesterol and fatty deposits narrows or blocks the heart's arteries. Over time, the blockage prevents oxygen from getting to the heart resulting in damage to heart tissue. Myocardial infarction is commonly known as a heart attack and occurs when the heart does not receive enough oxygen resulting in heart damage or death.
Heart-related conditions often have a significant impact on a person's occupational performance. Heart precautions, such as no heavy lifting, may limit a person's ability to pick up and carry objects and affect job performance. A precaution to maintain a heart rate below 110 beats per minute may prevent a person from participating in meaningful occupations such as running or biking. A low-salt diet may require modifications to cooking habits and require exploring alternative foods. Occupational therapists work with clients with heart conditions to safely maximize their level of independence in day-to-day activities.
Reference: Atchison, Ben, and Diane Dirette PhD. Conditions in Occupational Therapy: Effect on Occupational Performance. 2012.