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:
Cardiac output = stroke volume × heart rate
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 minute.
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.
Sufficient cardiac output helps keep blood pressure at the levels needed to supply oxygen-rich blood to your brain and other vital organs.
Author: Healthwise Staff Clinical Review Board All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
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