The importance of the cardiovascular system cannot be overstated. This is one system that students frequently know something about, at least from a plumbing viewpoint, but they often don’t completely understand the complexity of the system and the magnitude of its tasks. An essential component of presentation of the material is then to outline in detail the role of the cardiovascular system and its significance to all other body systems.
This chapter begins with the fundamental information about the heart by first discussing anatomy and then moving on to the more complex physiology. The section on anatomy covers the layers of the heart as well as its chambers, valves, and the vessels through which blood moves in and out of its various regions. A section on cardiac circulation explains the way the heart itself is supplied with oxygen-rich blood.
The structural and mechanical characteristics of the heart are followed by a discussion of its unique electrical intrinsic activity. The conduction system is outlined and relevant homeostatic imbalances are discussed. Concepts related to the electrical conduction system of the heart are always difficult to grasp, and key demonstrations and activities help solidify the students’ understanding.
Following the section on the heart itself is the portion of the chapter dealing with the blood vessels. Arteries, veins, and capillaries are compared for their structural and physiological similarities as well as their differences. Names of the major vessels are given, as the route of blood is traced from its point of exit from the heart through the aorta to all parts of the body and back to the heart via the superior and inferior venae cavae. A look into the various mechanisms involved in blood pressure precedes a discussion of the special circulatory routes that supply the brain, liver, and developing fetus. Finally, the developmental aspects of circulation are considered.
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