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Cardiovascular System
A typical person has around 4-5 litres of blood. The blood is the transport system by which oxygen and
nutrients reach the body's cells, and waste materials are carried away. In addition, blood carries substances
called hormones, which control body processes, and antibodies to fight invading germs.

The three main divisions of the circulatory system are:

 The Heart
o The heart consists of 2 muscular pumps known as the left and right ventricles. The
ventricles have 2 reservoirs called atria (left and right). Each ventricle acts to serve
different circulations. The right ventricle shifts deoxygenated blood into the
pulmonary circulation. Blood enters the network of capillaries in the lungs and
through a process of diffusion carbon dioxide is lost and oxygen is aquired; it then
returns to the left atrium. The left ventricle is the pump responsible for delivering
blood into the systemic circulation where it carries nutrients and oxygen to the
tissues. An exchange of nutrients and oxygen for carbon dioxide and waste takes
place; the waste rich blood now returns to the right atrium.
 Blood Vessels - are intricate networks of hollow tubes that transport blood throughout the
entire body.
o Arteries:
 These blood vessels transport blood away from the heart. Arteries are thick,
muscular walled structures compared to veins as they are designed to
accommodate the high flow and pressures exerted by the force delivered by
the heart. In larger arteries, e.g.Aorta, more elastic tissue is contained within
the tunica media but has less smooth muscle.
o Arterioles:
 Smaller diameter blood vessels with thin muscular walls that extend and
branch out from an artery and leads to capillaries. These vessels are the
primary site of vascular resistance.
o Capillaries:
 Smallest of a bodies blood vessels, measuring just 5-10 μm in diameter.
Capillaries connect arterioles and venules. The walls of the capillaries are
only one cell thick which enables the interchange of water, oxygen, carbon
dioxide, nutrients and waste products from the blood and surrounding
o Venules:
 A small blood vessel that drains deoxygenated blood from the capillary beds
to return to the larger blood vessels called veins. Many venules join to form
a vein.
o Veins:
 These vessels transport blood towards the heart. The majority of veins carry
de-oxygenated blood except for the pulmonary vein which carries oxygen
rich blood from the lungs back to the left atrium.

Structure of Vessels:

The vessel wall consists of three layers:

o Tunica Adventitia: The tunica adventitia is the strong outer covering of arteries and veins. It
is composed of connective tissue as well as collagen and elastic fibres. These fibres allow the
arteries and veins to stretch to prevent overexpansion due to the pressure that is exerted on
the walls by blood flow.
o Tunica Media: The tunica media is the middle layer of the walls of arteries and veins. It is
composed of smooth muscle and elastic fibres. This layer is thicker in arteries than in veins
o Tunica Intima: The tunica intima is the inner layer of arteries and veins. In arteries this layer
is composed of an elastic membrane lining and smooth endothelium that is covered by
elastic tissues.
o Veins do not contain the elastic membrane lining that is found in arteries. In some veins the
tunica intima layer also contains valves


 Blood consists of many components (constituents). These include:

o 55% Plasma
o 45% Components, i.e. 'Blood Cells'. Of these, 99% are erythrocytes (red blood cells) and 1%
are leucocytes (white blood cells) and thrombocytes (blood platelets).

Functions of Blood

1 Transports:

o Dissolved gases (e.g. oxygen, carbon dioxide)

o Waste products of metabolism (e.g. water, urea)
o Hormones

o Enzymes
o Nutrients (such as glucose, amino acids, micro-nutrients (vitamins & minerals), fatty acids,
o Plasma proteins (associated with defence, such as blood-clotting and anti-bodies)
o Blood cells (incl. white blood cells 'leucocytes', and red blood cells 'erythrocytes')

2 Maintains Body Temperature

3 Controls pH

o The pH of blood must remain in the range 6.8 to 7.4, otherwise it begins to damage cells.

4 Removes toxins from the body

o The kidneys filter all of the blood in the body (approx. 8 pints), 36 times every 24 hours.
Toxins removed from the blood by the kidneys leave the body in the urine. (Toxins also leave
the body in the form of sweat.)

5 Regulation of Body Fluid Electrolytes

o Excess salt is removed from the body in urine, which may contain around 10g salt per day
(such as in the cases of people on western diets containing more salt than the body requires)

Clotting Process

Within 20 seconds of an injury to a blood vessel the process of sealing this injury site begins. This process is
termed coagulation. The stages of coagulation are as follows:

 The blood vessel releases an enzyme called thrombokinase

 The released thrombokinase starts the conversion of an inactive enzyme prothrombin into thrombin
 Thrombin initiates a reaction to convert another protein fibrinogen, which is present in plasma, to
 Fibrin in turn forms a type of net over the injury site which then captures red blood cells and creates a
seal. The clot then dries forming what we know as a scab

Heart structure and function

The heart is a sort of upside down cone shape with blunted edges. On the outside there is a layer of fat, and
across its surface are a network of veins and arteries, known as the coronary vessels, which keep the muscle
supplied with blood.

The heart's job is to pump blood around the body to where it is needed. Consequently, the heart is made up of
cardiac muscle, which can contract often without tiring.

The left and right sides of the heart are separated by the septum, a wall of muscle and cardiac tissue.

The valves, which stop the blood flowing back from the ventricles to the atria, are known as the atrio-
ventricular (AV) valves. On the left are the Bicuspid and on the right the Tricuspid. There are also valves, which
stop the blood from the arteries flowing back into the ventricles. These are called semi-lunar valves.

Circulatory Problems

Peripheral artery disease:

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition where fatty deposits build up in the inner linings of the artery
walls. The narrowing restricts blood circulation, mainly in arteries leading to the kidneys, stomach, arms, legs
and feet. Early symptoms are cramping, fatigue or numbness in the legs and buttocks that occurs during
moderate exercise or simple walking. The cramping usually stops as and when the person stands still. This is
called "claudication." Those with the fatty deposits also run a higher risk of developing a stroke or a myocardial
infarct, this can lead to death. People at risk of PAD are those that have Diabetes, Hypertension, High
Cholesterol and smokers.

Treatment for these patients includes the following:

 Diabetic control
 Low cholesterol diet
 Blood pressure medication
 Angioplasty to widen the narrowed arteries
 In severe cases the patient may have to under go a bypass operation so blood can pass freely to the
affected part