“Normal ejection fraction” is a phrase you might have come across before if you spend a lot of time in hospitals or just studying medicine. But you might not have stopped to ask what exactly it means. And more importantly, you may not know why it matters.
Yet, it turns out that your ejection fraction is an extremely important thing to know for someone who suffers from heart trouble, as millions of people around the world do. So what exactly is a normal ejection fraction? And why does it matter?
What is a Normal Ejection Fraction?
Your heart functions like a pump, moving the blood in your body through your circulatory system. And the overall health of the system can be measured based on how much blood your heart is able to pump. That’s where the ejection fraction comes in.
An ejection fraction is, simply put, a measurement of the amount of blood your heart can move. Your heart is a muscle that expands and contracts. Each contraction sends blood from the main chambers of the heart, the ventricles, up through the other chambers, the atriums, and from there to the rest of your body through the arteries. But while every chamber of the heart is important, the left ventricle is the main pumping chamber.
So to measure your ejection fraction, your doctor will look at how much blood passes out of your left ventricle with each contraction. A normal ejection fraction is considered to be around 50%, meaning that about half the blood in your ventricle is pushed out in every contraction.
There are a few different ways to measure each contraction to make sure you’re maintaining a normal ejection fraction but the main method is with something called an echocardiogram. Basically, this consists of using a machine that sends sound waves through your heart and then uses those sound waves to produce an image of the heart. This lets the doctor determine the amount of blood being moved with each contraction.
Why is it Important?
Whether or not you have a normal ejection fraction is the best way for a doctor to tell how healthy your heart is. And an abnormal ejection fraction is a sign that something is wrong. There are a number of conditions that can lead to this result.
Dilated cardiomyopathy, for example, is a condition where the walls of the heart become harder and less flexible. As a result, the muscles in the heart grow weaker and it becomes more difficult for your heart to pump blood. That results in a lower ejection fraction, which your doctor can pick up on.
In addition, chronic high blood pressure can weaken the arteries, resulting in less blood moving into the heart and gradually damaging the muscles of the heart as well. Finally, if you have a weakened heart valve that isn’t opening and closing properly it can mean less blood is getting pumped out and thus a lower ejection fraction.
The fact that your doctor can measure your ejection fraction and immediately know something is wrong is very important because all of these conditions can continue for years without showing any outward symptoms. But while you may not be aware that you have them, they can do serious damage to your heart, weakening it and making you susceptible to heart attacks and strokes that can be deadly.
And once your heart has become damaged enough, there is little that can be done to fix it. As the heart breaks down, it loses its ability to transmit oxygen through your body. Blood is the key to getting oxygen from your lungs to your brain. And without your heart, moving it around the body is impossible, which leads to fatal results.
Most of the time the only answer to a severely damaged heart is either an artificial implant that performs the job of the heart or a transplant. Neither is a particularly good option compared to maintaining a healthy heart since both surgeries carry major risks. By far, the best option is to keep a close eye on the health of your heart so that it continues beating normally for many years.
And knowing your ejection fraction and keeping a normal ejection fraction is an important part of taking good care of one of the most important organs in your body. So remember to look for the early warning signs of heart failure like fatigue, fainting spells, shortness of breath, or an irregular heartbeat. and if you suffer any of these symptoms make sure to see a doctor right away.