• University of Reading

Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease

Learn more about how your heart works, the causes of heart disease and how to keep your heart healthy.

63,266 enrolled on this course

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Understand cardiovascular disease and learn how to keep your heart healthy

Your heart beats around 100,000 times a day, pumping blood around your body to deliver oxygen and nutrients, while taking away waste products. When your heart is unhealthy, it can’t perform this vital task so effectively.

This course will improve your knowledge of how the heart works, the causes of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and heart failure and what you can do to avoid them.

You’ll cover both theory and practical aspects of heart health, learning from lab demonstrations and practical activities so you better understand your own heart.

Hear from our course team

You can take this course at any time. However, if you’d like to engage with the course team, our educators/mentors will be joining the course discussions during the following dates:

14 March 2022 – 10 April 2022

19 Sept 2022 - 16 Oct 2022

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  • Week 1

    Cardiovascular anatomy and physiology

    • Welcome to Week 1

      Find out more about what you will be learning, who will be guiding you and how the course is taught.

    • Blood and the circulatory system

      To gain a greater knowledge of cardiovascular disease, further your understanding on the circulatory system and the transport network it provides to and from the lungs and tissues.

    • Anatomy and function of the heart

      Learn about the importance of the heart's anatomy and function, then apply theory through an optional heart dissection home practical.

    • Behind the scenes

      Get to know more about Dr Sam Boateng and some of the reasons he was motivated to further study heart health.

    • Starting a food and activity diary

      Get started with your food and activity diary and find out how this can help you investigate the lifestyle risk factors cardiovascular disease can impose.

    • Review and Reflect

      Reflect on what you have learnt this week on the healthy heart and circulatory system, then assess your knowledge with an end of week quiz.

  • Week 2

    Angina, heart attacks and strokes

    • Welcome to Week 2

      Give yourself an overview of what will be covered this week, and discuss some facts and figures relating to how women and men are differently effected by cardiovascular disease.

    • Atherosclerosis and angina

      Watch and discuss as Dr David Leake talks about the effects the conditions atherosclerosis and angina have on the circulatory system and how they can be diagnosed and treated.

    • Haemostasis and thrombosis

      Learn about the chemical reaction that happens to allow blood to clot, and how this can negatively impact the circulatory system in an unhealthy body in a home practical.

    • How blood clots

      A demonstration of how blood clots and a home practical showing how thrombosis affects blood flow.

    • Heart attacks and strokes

      Watch as Professor Jon Gibbins and Dr David Leake explain the reasons heart attacks and strokes occur, symptoms, survival statistics and possible treatment.

    • Research, evaluate and share

      Share your findings and discuss the reliability of the content sources mentioned last week.

    • Behind the scenes

      Meet with Professor Jon Gibbins and explore the massive impact research has towards the development of heart health.

    • Review and Reflect

      Reflect on what you have learnt this week on the various cardiovascular diseases and conditions that can occur, and assess your knowledge with an end of week quiz.

  • Week 3

    Heart failure, hypertension, valvular disease and arrhythmias

    • Welcome to Week 3

      An overview of the topics that will be covered this week and some facts and figures relating to them.

    • Heart failure

      Find out about the main causes and alarming stats surrounding the topic of heart failure and apply your learning in a home practical.

    • Hypertension, valvular disease and arrythmias

      Learn about hypertension, valvular disease and arrythmias, and discuss your thoughts on the introduction of defibrillators in public places.

    • Research, evaluate and share

      Share your findings and discuss the reliability of reportage sources surrounding heart failure, blood pressure and arrhythmias.

    • Behind the scenes

      Meet with Dr Alister McNeish as he discusses his passion for his research in cardiovascular pharmacology and the importance of noting the heart conditions suffered by close relatives.

    • The British Heart Foundation Educational Videos

      This activity includes a range of educational videos provided by the Britsh Heart Foundation that explore what you can expect if you have to have one or more cardiovascular tests or treatments.

    • Review and Reflect

      Reflect on what you have learnt this week on heart failure, hypertension, valvular disease and arrhythmias and assess your knowledge with an end of week quiz.

  • Week 4

    Risk factors and prevention

    • Welcome to Week 4

      Give yourself an overview of the topics that will be covered this week and share your views on what lifestyle choices can be made to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

    • Non-modifiable and semi-modifiable risk factors

      Learn about some non-modifiable and semi-modifiable risk factors that can cause cardiovascular disease including: age, gender and genetics.

    • Modifiable risk factors

      Learn about the factors that can be adjusted in your life to reduce risk of heart disease such as giving up smoking, placing yourself in less stressful environments, lowering your cholesterol and dietary intake.

    • Lifestyle modifications - diet

      Learn about how nutrition can have a dramatic effect on the cardiovascular system and compare and analyse your food diary results with Dr Natasha Barrett.

    • Lifestyle modifications - physical activity

      Discover how physical inactivity and sedentary behavior impacts heart health and compare and analyse your activity diary results with Dr Natasha Barrett.

    • Research, evaluate and share

      Share your findings and discuss the reliability of reportage sources surrounding cardiovascular risk and prevention.

    • Behind the scenes

      Meet with Dr David Leake as he explains the reason he first became interested in research on atherosclerosis and the usefulness of technology at the University of Reading.

    • Review and Reflect

      Reflect on what you have learnt throughout the course on heart health and cardiovascular disease and assess your knowledge with an end of the week quiz.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the structure and function of the cardiovascular system, including the circulatory system and heart
  • Describe the basis of several cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks, strokes, hypertension and heart failure
  • Evaluate the various risk factors that can contribute towards increasing a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Discuss some of the lifestyle choices that we can make to try and reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Apply theoretical knowledge and investigate a topic through practical activities
  • Investigate and process data
  • Investigate a topic and evaluate the reliability of your sources

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at anyone with an interest in how the heart works and the diseases that commonly affect it. It will help if you have a basic understanding of human biology, but we’ll explain things in a way that will be easy for those who are unfamiliar with the subject. If you get stuck, you can always ask questions in the comments and other learners may be able to help you.

Healthcare practitioners may also enjoy this as a gentle refresher or resource to share with patients.

Who will you learn with?

I am a lecturer in cardiovascular biology and haematology at the University of Reading and the lead educator for Heart Health: A Beginner’s Guide to Cardiovascular Disease.

Who developed the course?

University of Reading

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.


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