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What is Cardiovascular Physiology?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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Cardiovascular physiology is the study of the heart and circulatory system. A number of medical professionals rely on cardiovascular physiology in their work, including pulmonologists, cardiologists, and cardiothoracic surgeons. Because the cardiovascular system is so important to healthy function of an organism, it is also covered extensively during medical education, ensuring that all medical practitioners understand the basic anatomy and physiology of the circulatory system and lungs.

A number of very complex processes are involved in the function of the heart and circulatory system, from the osmosis which allows blood to deliver fresh oxygen and nutrients to the body while picking up waste materials for elimination to the electrical impulses which keep the heart beating. Cardiovascular physiology includes an extensive examination of all of these processes, including the chemistry of the blood, the physical anatomy of the heart and vascular system, and the role of the lungs in the oxygenation of blood.

Abnormalities in physiology are also of interest, ranging from diseases which alter blood pressure to congenital heart abnormalities which interfere with normal heart function. Cardiovascular pathology, the study of such abnormalities, also includes an understanding of techniques which can be used to address or monitor them, including the introduction of medications to regulate blood pressure, and artificial pacemakers to normalize heart rhythm.

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Cardiovascular physiologists also study topics like the influence of exercise of the cardiovascular system, the role that diet plays in cardiovascular health, and ways in which people can improve their cardiovascular function. They study individuals with both healthy and diseased hearts and circulatory systems to understand how the body functions and how abnormalities in function influence other systems in the body. This field can also include the study of conditions which impact cardiovascular function, such as diabetes, which can lead to circulatory problems.

A knowledge of cardiovascular physiology can allow a doctor to make a treatment recommendation to a patient, and it can also be used for things like patient education, public health initiatives which are designed to address rising rates of heart disease, and medical imaging studies which assess heart and circulatory function. The vascular system is also of interest to pharmacologists, as it can be used as a highly effective delivery system for medications. Cardiovascular physiology is also a topic of concern to some bodyworkers, who can influence cardiovascular function with their work, as seen when massage therapy inadvertently causes fluid retention by interfering with circulation.

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NathanG
Post 2

@Mammmood - I think that one of the most important lessons that we can learn about human cardiovascular physiology is that most heart disease problems do not just “come out of nowhere.” It’s not bad luck, except in cases where you have genetic abnormalities.

In my opinion, most heart disease is the result of diet, and this should be lesson number one for educating the lay public on heart issues. It’s a fact that when the Western diet was introduced in otherwise healthy nations like those in Asia, the incidents of heart disease went through the roof.

I think we can prevent a lot of heart disease in America by making people understand more clearly the link between diet and heart health. They don’t need a textbook on cardiovascular physiology to understand that.

Mammmood
Post 1

While I don’t recommend that we become our own doctors, an introduction to cardiovascular physiology would be beneficial to everyone in my opinion.

Of course, I am recommending a “for dummies” approach here, not the kind of study you get in medical school. The reason I think it’s important for the lay public to know how the heart works is that it will enable people to better recognize life threatening symptoms.

For example, let’s say you suffer from shortness of breath. Well, the main function of the heart is to pump blood and blood is filled with oxygen. That could be the cause of your shortness of breath, a blockage somewhere.

Of course that’s not the only cause; it could be something with your lungs as well, but the heart would be the most important organ to check up on, in my opinion.

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