How Your Heart Works

The Human Heart

[Please note - Medical illustrations assume that the patient is facing you so that the right and left correspond to the patient's right and left. That's why the left and right labels here seem backwards.]

The heart is a hollow, cone-shaped muscle located between the lungs and behind the sternum (breastbone). Two-thirds of the heart is located to the left of the midline of the body and 1/3 is to the right (see Figure 1).

The apex (pointed end) points down and to the left. It is 5 inches (12 cm) long, 3.5 inches (8-9 cm) wide and 2.5 inches (6 cm) from front to back, and is roughly the size of your fist. The average weight of a female human heart is 9 ounces and a male's heart is 10.5 ounces. The heart comprises less than 0.5 percent of the total body weight.


The heart has three layers. The smooth, inside lining of the heart is called the endocardium. The middle layer of heart muscle is called the myocardium. It is surrounded by a fluid filled sac call the pericardium.