Circulatory System


The circulatory system is an organ system that moves nutrients, gases, and wastes to and from cells, helps fight diseases and helps stabilize body temperature and pH to maintain homeostasis. This system may be seen strictly as a blood distribution network, but some consider the circulatory system as composed of the cardiovascular system, which distributes blood, and the lymphatic system, which distributes lymph. While humans, as well as other vertebrates, have a closed cardiovascular system (meaning that the blood never leaves the network of arteries, veins and capillaries), some invertebrate groups have an open cardiovascular system. The most primitive animal phyla lack circulatory systems. The lymphatic system, on the other hand, is an open system.

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The main components of the human circulatory system are the heart, the blood, and the blood vessels. The circulatory system includes: the pulmonary circulation, a "loop" through the lungs where blood is oxygenated; and the systemic circulation, a "loop" through the rest of the body to provide oxygenated blood. An average adult contains five to six quarts (roughly 4.7 to 5.7 liters) of blood, which consists of plasma that contains red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Two types of fluids move through the circulatory system: blood and lymph. The blood, heart, and blood vessels form the cardiovascular system. The lymph, lymph nodes, and lymph vessels form the lymphatic system. The cardiovascular system and the lymphatic system collectively make up the circulatory system.


Systemic circulation

Systemic circulation is the portion of the cardiovascular system which carries oxygenated blood away from the heart, to the body, and returns deoxygenated blood back to the heart.

Arteries always take blood away from the heart, regardless of their oxygenation, and veins always bring blood back. In general, arteries bring oxygenated blood to the tissues; veins bring deoxygenated blood back to the heart. In the case of the pulmonary vessels, however, the oxygenation is reversed: the pulmonary artery takes deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs, and oxygenated blood is pumped back through the pulmonary vein to the heart. As blood circulates through the body, oxygen and nutrients diffuse from the blood into cells surrounding the capillaries, and carbon dioxide diffuses into the blood from the capillary cells.

The release of oxygen from red blood cells or erythrocytes is regulated in mammals. It increases with an increase of carbon dioxide in tissues, an increase in temperature, or a decrease in pH. Such characteristics are exhibited by tissues undergoing high metabolism, as they require increased levels of oxygen.


Pulmonary circulation is the portion of the cardiovascular system which carries oxygen-depleted blood away from the heart, to the lungs, and returns oxygenated blood back to the heart.

De-oxygenated blood enters the right atrium of the heart and flows into the right ventricle where it is pumped through the pulmonary arteries to the lungs. Pulmonary veins return the now oxygen-rich blood to the heart, where it enters the left atrium before flowing into the left ventricle. From the left ventricle the oxygen-rich blood is pumped out via the aorta, and on to the rest of the body.

Coronary circulation
Coronary circulation is the circulation of blood in the blood vessels that supply blood to and from the heart muscle itself. Although blood fills the chambers of the heart, the muscle tissue of the heart, or myocardium, is so thick that it requires coronary blood vessels to deliver blood deep into it. The vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood to the myocardium are known as coronary arteries. The vessels that remove the deoxygenated blood from the heart muscle are known as cardiac veins.

The coronary arteries that run on the surface of the heart are called epicardial coronary arteries. These arteries, when healthy, are capable of autoregulation to maintain coronary blood flow at levels appropriate to the needs of the heart muscle. These relatively narrow vessels are commonly affected by atherosclerosis and can become blocked, causing angina or a heart attack. (See also: circulatory system.) The coronary arteries that run deep within the myocardium are referred to as subendocardial.

The coronary arteries are classified as "end circulation", since they represent the only source of blood supply to the myocardium: there is very little redundant blood supply, which is why blockage of these vessels can be so critical.

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