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What is the Cardiovascular System?

Friday November 23, 2018
What is the Cardiovascular System?

The cardiovascular system, also referred to as the circulatory system, is comprised of the heart which pumps blood to the rest of the body via blood vessels, specifically the arteries. It is our blood that transports oxygen and the essential nutrients around the body to fuel our cells. Blood also removes carbon dioxide and waste made by the cells and returns to the heart via our veins.

The heart itself is separated by a muscular wall into two sides, the left side of the heart pumping oxygen rich blood around the rest of the body and the right side receiving carbon dioxide rich blood which is pumped back to the lungs to receive more oxygen. The pumping of the heart is controlled by nerves which conduct electrical signals to the different chambers of the heart. It is the coronary arteries that provide the heart muscle itself with a blood supply.

Cardiovascular issues can arise when lifestyle choices including smoking, poor diet, inactivity, and being overweight cause the system to work inefficiently. These modifiable lifestyle choices can lead to risk factors such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high blood sugar levels and endothelial dysfunction which increases the risk of atherosclerosis.


Atherosclerosis is the build-up of plaque in the arteries from naturally occurring substances in the body such as cholesterol. This causes the arteries to narrow and become less flexible. This is a serious condition as over time the plaques can restrict the blood flow and oxygen supply to vital organs. It may also increase the risk of blood clots which increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Physical activity can help reduce your risk of heart and circulatory disease

Lifestyle Tips for good Cardiovascular Health

Eat well: A healthy diet can help lower your risk of developing coronary heart disease and prevent weight gain, reduce your risk of diabetes and hypertension. Aim to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables to ensure a high fibre intake which has inversely been associated with heart disease[i]. Limit processed foods as well as those rich in sodium and sugar.

Get active: Physical activity can help reduce your risk of heart and circulatory disease. It can also help you control your weight and reduce blood pressure. Make exercise a part of your daily routine.

Maintain a healthy weight: Research shows that reaching and keeping to a healthy weight cuts your risk of heart and circulatory diseases because it helps prevent and manage conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes that put you at greater risk of coronary heart disease.

Quit smoking: Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with non-smokers. If you smoke, stopping is the single most important step you can take to protect the health of your heart.

Reduce Stress: Although stress is not a directly a risk factor for heart and circulatory diseases, but it's possible that it may contribute to overall risk level. Change your lifestyle in a positive way can help you feel better able to cope with the demands put onto you. A balanced diet, meditation and regular physical activity can help you cope with stress.

Reduce Alcohol: Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol can have a harmful effect on your heart and general health. Alcohol is also high in calories so it can lead to weight gain. Current recommendations are not to drink more than 14 units per week and have some alcohol-free days within the week.

Author: Aimée Benbow, BSc (Hons) ANutr. is Technical Director at Viridian Nutrition.

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


TAGS: Nutrition News and ViewsCardiovascular health, Cardio


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