Heart Valves and Circulation

Heart Valve Functions

Properly working system

To 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 blood throughout the entire body so 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 traveling out to the body.

What is the purpose of the heart chambers?

A normal heart has two distinct sides and four 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 forcefully pump it out.
    • The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs.
    • The left ventricle pumps blood through the aorta and out to the entire body.

Watch a blood flow animation.

blood flow

Why are valves important for circulation and health?

Each heart valve has two functions:

  • To open correctly so blood can empty from the chamber
  • To close properly so blood flows forward

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

Learn more about the roles of your heart valves.

Video: The Basics of Heart Circulation
Video: Understanding Heart Valves and the Four Systems in the Heart
Video: Heart Valves Are for Life
Interactive Cardiovascular Library Thumbnail image

Watch, Learn and Live

See your cardiovascular system in action with our interactive illustrations and animations.