17: Cardiovascular System - Biology

17: Cardiovascular System - Biology

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This chapter provides a detailed description of the heart, blood vessels, and blood. The chapter also describes several diseases of the cardiovascular system and lifestyle choices that can help prevent most of them.

  • 17.1: Case Study: Your Body's Transportation System
    Nineteen-year-old Antônio is on his first plane flight when his seatmate, 60-year-old Ahaya, begins pacing the aisles and doing leg and foot exercises at regular intervals. Ahaya explains that he has chronic heart failure, which, although well-managed, puts him at greater risk for certain complications of flying, like deep vein thrombosis (DVT). In this chapter, you will learn about the heart, blood vessels, and blood that make up the cardiovascular system, as well as its potential disorders.
  • 17.2: Introduction to the Cardiovascular System
    The cardiovascular system, also called the circulatory system, is the organ system that transports materials to and from all the cells of the body. The materials carried by the cardiovascular system include oxygen from the lungs, nutrients from the digestive system, hormones from glands of the endocrine system, and waste materials from cells throughout the body. Transport of these and many other materials is necessary to maintain homeostasis of the body.
  • 17.3: Heart
    The heart is a muscular organ behind the sternum (breastbone), slightly to the left of the center of the chest. A normal adult heart is about the size of a fist. The function of the heart is to pump blood through blood vessels of the cardiovascular system. The continuous flow of blood through the system is necessary to provide all the cells of the body with oxygen and nutrients and to remove their metabolic wastes.
  • 17.4: Blood Vessels
    Blood vessels are the part of the cardiovascular system that transports blood throughout the human body. There are three major types of blood vessels. Besides veins, they include arteries and capillaries.
  • 17.5: Blood
    Blood is a fluid connective tissue that circulates throughout the body through blood vessels of the cardiovascular system. What makes blood so special that it features in widespread myths? Although blood accounts for less than 10 percent of human body weight, it is quite literally the elixir of life. As blood travels through the vessels of the cardiovascular system, it delivers vital substances such as nutrients and oxygen to all of the cells and carries away their metabolic wastes.
  • 17.6: Blood Types
    Blood type (or blood group) is a genetic characteristic associated with the presence or absence of certain molecules, called antigens, on the surface of red blood cells. These molecules may help maintain the integrity of the cell membrane, act as receptors, or have other biological functions. A blood group system refers to all of the gene(s), alleles, and possible genotypes and phenotypes that exist for a particular set of blood type antigens.
  • 17.7: Cardiovascular Disease
    Cardiovascular disease is a class of diseases that involve the cardiovascular system. They include diseases of the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients; diseases of arteries such as the carotid artery that provide blood flow to the brain; and diseases of the peripheral arteries that carry blood throughout the body. Worldwide, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, causing about a third of all deaths each year.
  • 17.8: Case Study Conclusion: Flight and Chapter Summary
    At the beginning of this chapter, you learned about Antônio and Ahaya, who met while sitting next to each other on a plane. During the flight, Ahaya got up to take frequent walks and was doing leg exercises to try to avoid the medical condition DVT. DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the leg. It can be very dangerous—even deadly.

Thumbnail: Flow of blood through the cardiac chambers. (Public Domain; Josinho8).

Cardiovascular System Development

Development of the heart and vascular system is often described together as the cardiovascular system, with the heart being the first functional organ that forms in the embryo. Development begins very early in mesoderm both within (embryonic) and outside (extra embryonic, yolk sac and placental) the embryo. Vascular development therefore occurs in many places, the most obvious though is the early forming heart, which grows rapidly creating an externally obvious cardiac "bulge" on the early embryo. The cardiovascular system is extensively remodelled throughout development, this current page only introduces topic.

The heart forms initially in the embryonic disc as a simple paired tube inside the forming pericardial cavity, which when the disc folds, gets carried into the correct anatomical position in the chest cavity.

Throughout the mesoderm, small regions differentiate into "blood islands" which contribute both blood vessels (walls) and fetal red blood cells.

These "islands" connect together to form the first vessels which connect with the heart tube.

A detailed description of heart development is covered in the Online Heart Tutorial.


Pressure waves generated by the heart in systole, or ventricular contraction, move the highly elastic arterial walls. Forward movement of blood occurs when the arterial wall boundaries are pliable and compliant. These properties allow the arterial wall to distend when pressure increases, resulting in a pulse that can be detected by touch. Exercise, environmental stress, or psychological stress can cause the heart rate to increase above the resting rate. The pulse is the most straightforward way of measuring the heart rate, but it can be a crude and inaccurate measurement when cardiac output is low. In these cases (as happens in some arrhythmias), there is little pressure change and no corresponding change in pulse, and the heart rate may be considerably higher than the measured pulse.

Association of Cardiovascular Disease With Respiratory Disease

Background: The relationship between respiratory diseases and individual cardiovascular diseases, and the impact of cardiovascular diseases on mortality in patients with respiratory disease, are unclear.

Objectives: This study sought to determine the relationship between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and interstitial lung disease (ILD), and individual cardiovascular diseases, and evaluate the impact of individual cardiovascular diseases on all-cause mortality in respiratory conditions.

Methods: The authors conducted a cohort study of all patients admitted to 7 National Health Service hospitals across the North West of England, between January 1, 2000, and March 31, 2013, with relevant respiratory diagnoses, with age-matched and sex-matched control groups.

Results: A total of 31,646 COPD, 60,424 asthma, and 1,662 ILD patients were included. Control groups comprised 158,230, 302,120, and 8,310 patients, respectively (total follow-up 2,968,182 patient-years). COPD was independently associated with ischemic heart disease (IHD), heart failure (HF), atrial fibrillation, and peripheral vascular disease, all of which were associated with all-cause mortality (e.g., odds ratio for the association of COPD with HF: 2.18 [95% confidence interval (CI): 2.08 to 2.26] hazard ratio for the contribution of HF to mortality in COPD: 1.65 [95% CI: 1.61 to 1.68]). Asthma was independently associated with IHD, and multiple cardiovascular diseases contributed to mortality (e.g., HF hazard ratio: 1.81 [95% CI: 1.75 to 1.87]). ILD was independently associated with IHD and HF, both of which were associated with mortality. Patients with lung disease were less likely to receive coronary revascularization.

Conclusions: Lung disease is independently associated with cardiovascular diseases, particularly IHD and HF, which contribute significantly to all-cause mortality. However, patients with lung disease are less likely to receive coronary revascularization.

Keywords: asthma chronic obstructive pulmonary disease heart failure interstitial lung fibrosis ischemic heart disease.

Copyright © 2019 American College of Cardiology Foundation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


While the opioid epidemic has garnered significant attention, the use of methamphetamines is growing worldwide independent of wealth or region. Following overdose and accidents, the leading cause of death in methamphetamine users is cardiovascular disease, because of significant effects of methamphetamine on vasoconstriction, pulmonary hypertension, atherosclerotic plaque formation, cardiac arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathy. In this review, we examine the current literature on methamphetamine-induced changes in cardiovascular health, discuss the potential mechanisms regulating these varied effects, and highlight our deficiencies in understanding how to treat methamphetamine-associated cardiovascular dysfunction.

Oxidative regulation of the Na(+)-K(+) pump in the cardiovascular system

The Na(+)-K(+) pump is an essential heterodimeric membrane protein, which maintains electrochemical gradients for Na(+) and K(+) across cell membranes in all tissues. We have identified glutathionylation, a reversible posttranslational redox modification, of the Na(+)-K(+) pump's β1 subunit as a regulatory mechanism of pump activity. Oxidative inhibition of the Na(+)-K(+) pump by angiotensin II- and β1-adrenergic receptor-coupled signaling via NADPH oxidase activation demonstrates the relevance of this regulatory mechanism in cardiovascular physiology and pathophysiology. This has implications for dysregulation of intracellular Na(+) and Ca(2+) as well as increased oxidative stress in heart failure, myocardial ischemia-reperfusion, and regulation of vascular tone under conditions of elevated oxidative stress. Treatment strategies that are able to reverse this oxidative inhibition of the Na(+)-K(+) pump have the potential for cardiovascular-protective effects.

Keywords: Free radicals Glutaredoxin Glutathionylation NADPH oxidase Na(+)–K(+) pump.

Which line in the graph above best illustrates an effect of the carbon dioxide level in the blood on breathing rate before, during and after a period of exercise?

Which of the following best describes the connection between cardiovascular disease and age?

A. As people age, their blood vessels become more elastic leading to less cardiovascular disease.

B. As people age, the heart becomes more efficient with each pump, increasing cardiac output.

C. As people age, blood pressure decreases leading to more cardiovascular disease.

D. As people age, plaque builds up in the arteries increasing vessel resistance, which leads to disease.


Department of Medical Statistics, University Medical Center Göttingen, Humboldtallee, 32, Göttingen, Germany

Molecular Cardiology, Department of Medicine II, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany

Clinic for General and Interventional Cardiology, University Heart Center Hamburg, Martinistrasse 52, 20246, Hamburg, Germany

German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK e.V.), Partner Site Hamburg, Lübeck, Kiel, Hamburg, Germany

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FK, SJ, TZ wrote the manuscript and made critical revision of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author


  1. Archie

    Eh, a bit late

  2. Temuro

    Magnificent message)

  3. Sancho

    You still remember the 18th century

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