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School Biology notes: Human circulatory system: Part 6. Effects of CVD

Human circulatory system: Part 6. cardiovascular disease (CVD), causes, cholesterol, heart attacks & strokes

Doc Brown's GCSE level Biology exam study revision notes

Index of notes on human circulatory system: heart, lungs & blood vessels

Keeping healthy: non-communicable diseases: risk factors for CVD, cancers, obesity, diabetes

6. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and lifestyle

Reminder: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the scientific medical term for all types of disease that affect the heart or blood vessels.  CVD includes coronary heart disease (clogged up arteries with fatty deposits), which can cause heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, and peripheral artery disease.

CVD is a medical term to describe diseases of the heart or blood vessels.

CVD is usually associated with the narrowing and blocking of the blood vessels (arteries) that convey oxygenated blood away from the heart.

Arteries become narrowed due to the build up of fatty deposits on the lining of damaged artery walls - often the damage is caused by high blood pressure. The fatty deposits can also cause blood clots.

One such example is coronary heart disease.

Heart disease is one of the major causes of death in the UK and other developed countries.

Cholesterol is made in the liver and transported in the blood.

Cholesterol is important and we need a small amount of blood cholesterol because the body uses it to: build the structure of cell membranes, make hormones like oestrogen, testosterone and adrenal hormones.

Cholesterol also helps your metabolism work efficiently is essential for your body to produce vitamin D.

However, high levels of cholesterol are associated with heart disease.

Smoking is also very bad for you, and not just for causing lung cancer.

When breathed in, the chemicals in tobacco smoke harm your blood cells.

They also can damage the function of your heart and the structure and function of your blood vessels.

This damage increases your risk of atherosclerosis - a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the arteries.


Coronary heart disease and a heart attack

Coronary heart disease is when the coronary arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become blocked with layers of cholesterol, fats and other materials deposited on the inside of artery walls.

This effectively narrows the arteries restricting the blood flow.

This decreased blood flow means less oxygen is carried to the heart muscles.

A lack of oxygen to work the heart muscles can lead to a heart attack.

There is also an increased risk of blood clots forming - these can block the flow of blood completely, greatly increasing the chance of a heart attack.

See Part 7 for more on stents


A stroke occurs when a narrowed artery that supplies blood to the brain, becomes blocked by a blood clot.

This deprives the brain of oxygen leading to a life-threatening situation..

Without rapid treatment, the results can be disastrous - death, injury to the brain (e.g. memory) and central nervous system (paralysis and physical coordination).

Recovery can be prolonged and often never complete.

Summary of learning objectives and key words or phrases

Understand what is meant by cardiovascular disease (CVD)

Know some of the causes  cardiovascular disease.

Know what can cause a heart attacks or a strokes.

Be able to associate the risk of CVD with smoking and other lifestyle factors, the onset of coronary heart disease from fatty deposits on the walls of arteries, having a safer and appropriate cholesterol level in the blood.



Index of biology notes on the human circulatory system - the heart, lungs and blood vessels

See also Health: non-communicable diseases: risk factors for CVD, cancers, obesity, diabetes

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