For the body to function properly, the heart needs to pump blood at a
sufficient rate to maintain an adequate and continuous supply of oxygen and
other nutrients to the brain and other vital organs. Cardiac output is the term
that describes the amount of blood your heart pumps each minute. Doctors think
about cardiac output in terms of the following equation:
It’s dramatic when someone has a heart attack on television or in the movies. But in real life, symptoms can be more subtle and difficult to identify. And because heart attack and angina symptoms are so similar, it may be hard to tell what's going on.
But knowing the differences -- and the reasons behind them -- can result in seeking treatment sooner, and living longer.
Your stroke volume is the amount of blood your heart pumps each time
it beats, and your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per
What is a normal cardiac output?
A healthy heart with a normal cardiac output pumps about 5 to 6
liters of blood every minute when a person is resting.
When does the body need a higher cardiac output?
During exercise, your body may need three or four times your normal
cardiac output, because your muscles need more oxygen when you exert yourself.
During exercise, your heart typically beats faster so that more blood gets out
to your body. Your heart can also increase its stroke volume by pumping more
forcefully or increasing the amount of blood that fills the left ventricle
before it pumps. Generally speaking, your heart beats both faster and stronger
to increase cardiac output during exercise.
Why is maintaining cardiac output so important?
Sufficient cardiac output helps keep blood pressure at the
levels needed to supply oxygen-rich blood to your brain and other vital
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 12, 2014
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