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Heart and circulation

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The cardiovascular system

The body transport system

A large multicellular organism such as a person needs a transport system to move substances around to the cells. In the human body the transport system consists of:

  • The blood (the liquid which carries substances around your body)
  • The blood vessels (the pipes which carry the blood)
  • The heart (the pump which moves the blood around the body)

Together they make up the cardiovascular system.

Functions of the cardiovascular system

The cardiovascular system has a number of different functions in the body. These include:

  • Carrying food from the gut to the cells
  • Carrying oxygen from the lungs to the cells
  • Carrying carbon dioxide from the cells to the lungs
  • Carrying urea and other toxins from the liver to the kidneys
  • Carrying chemical messages (hormones) around the body from the glands where they are made to their target organs
  • Distributing heat around the body

The double circulation

We are very active animals so our cells need lots of oxygen. We have a very efficient system which makes sure our cells get the oxygen they need.

Your heart is not a single pump - it is in effect two pumps joined and working together. One part of the heart pumps deoxygenated blood to the lungs to get rid of waste carbon dioxide and pick up oxygen. The other part of the heart pumps this oxygenated blood all around the body. This is a double circulation.

Double Circulation
Circulatory Model

However your cardiovascular system is not a simple system of boxes. There are different types of blood vessels (arteries, veins and capillaries) and the blood flows through lots of different organs.

Every time the heart pumps the blood is pushed around the cardiovascular system. It flows in a constant stream (see the animation below).

Blood flow in the cardiovascular system

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