Journey Through the Cardiovascular System

Many of us know that our hearts are one of the most important organs in the body, but have you ever wondered how it does its job? During this article we will embark on a quest, the journey of a red blood cell throughout the body, learning about cardiovascular anatomy and the main ideas behind the way that the cardiovascular system supports life!

 

The Purpose of the Cardiovascular System

the cardiovascular system

The main purpose of the cardiovascular system is to deliver oxygen to muscles and organs, and bring carbon dioxide from these areas of the body to the lungs to be exhaled. If you have read our article on cellular respiration, you can recall that our bodies need oxygen to convert sugar, also known as glucose, to energy. Carbon dioxide is also the byproduct of cellular respiration, and our cells need a way to get rid of this chemical and get more oxygen. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are not the only compounds cells need to thrive, and therefore it is crucial that there is an efficient system for cells to get rid of waste and get nutrients.

Cardiovascular Anatomy:

cardiovascular anatomy

The Heart

The heart is the organ that serves mainly to pump blood to both the lungs as well as the rest of the body. The heart is a strong, complex, and delicate organ whose function is necessary for us to live.

The 4 Chambers of the Heart

The heart has 4 chambers, the right atrium and ventricle and the left atrium and ventricle. The atria of the heart both function to collect blood. The right atrium collects deoxygenated blood from the entire body while the right ventricle receives blood from the right atrium and pumps blood to the lungs. The left atrium collects oxygenated blood from the lungs while the left ventricle receives blood from the left atrium and pumps oxygenated blood to the entire body.

 

The Vasculature – Veins and Arteries

There are many types of blood vessels that circulate blood through the body. They vary in size and shape and also vary in the type of blood that they carry. Veins for the most part carry deoxygenated blood to the heart and arteries largely carry oxygenated blood to organs and muscles throughout the body. Capillaries are very tiny blood vessels that are embedded in our organs and muscles that allow for oxygen and carbon dioxide to be exchanged. Though this system is almost infinitely detailed, these are the main ideas that will help us on our red blood cell journey!

The Journey of a Red Blood Cell

Starting in the right atrium, a red blood cell travels to the right ventricle and off to the lungs. Our blood cell that began in the right atrium is loaded with carbon dioxide, and in the lungs, our red blood cell exchanges carbon dioxide with oxygen.

 

Next, our red blood cell travels from the lungs and into the left atrium, now loaded with oxygen. The blood in the left atrium is oxygenated. Our blood cell travels from here to the left ventricle and off into the aorta the largest artery in the body.

Our red blood cell is now sent into the systemic circulation and will end up in a capillary where gas exchange will occur on the cellular level. The cell will deliver oxygen and take in carbon dioxide, as well as participate in the exchange of other nutrients.

Lastly, our red blood cell will leave the capillaries and enter veins that will carry the carbon dioxide-loaded red blood cell back to the right atrium. The veins, similar to arteries, are complex networks of vessels that connect back into the major veins labeled the superior and inferior vena cava that are directly linked to the right atrium.

Hopefully this helps you better understand cardiovascular anatomy and the function and purpose of our cardiovascular system!

 

Author: Sydni Britton

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