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Online course

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 with this free online course

Free:

  • Access to the course for its length + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps)
  • Access to quizzes and assignments
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps)
  • Access to quizzes and assignments
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease

Why join the course?

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 can cause significant health problems – heart disease is one of the biggest killers in the UK and an estimated 17 million people die of cardiovascular disease each year worldwide.

Heart disease is something that touches many lives, but can be difficult to understand.

An introduction to heart health

This four-week course aims to improve your knowledge of how the heart works, the effects of heart disease and what you can do to avoid it. We’ll explore the anatomy of the heart, explaining how the circulatory system works and what it does.

We’ll then introduce some of the most common cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart failure. We’ll help you understand their effects on the body, why they happen and what can be done to prevent them. We’ll also highlight some wonderful resources from the British Heart Foundation including up to date statistics, patient leaflets and videos describing many of the tests that cardiac patients undergo.

In the final week, we’ll examine the risk factors for heart disease and what you can do keep your heart healthy.

Hands-on exercises to understand your own heart

Each week you’ll have the opportunity to get hands on and do a practical activity, helping you to apply the knowledge you’ll gain on the course, to better understand your own heart.

You can find out more about these activities in Natasha Barrett’s post for the FutureLearn blog: “A heart in your hands.”

Download video: standard or HD

What topics will you cover?

Week 1:

  • Introduction to the structure and function of the cardiovascular system, consisting of the circulatory system and the heart as a pump
  • The circulatory system – including the different blood vessels, the blood cells and plasma
  • The structure of the heart – including its four chambers, the major blood vessels that enter and exit the heart, the smaller blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with vital blood and oxygen and the heart valves that regulate the flow of blood through the heart
  • The cardiac cycle and how this relates to an ECG (electro cardiogram)
  • Investigation of the structure of the heart through a hands-on practical activity

Week 2:

  • Introduction to the process of atherosclerosis
  • What is angina?
  • Introduction to haemostasis and thrombosis
  • What is a heart attack?
  • What is a stroke?
  • Investigation of the effects of thrombosis through a hands-on practical activity

Week 3:

  • What is heart failure?
  • What is hypertension?
  • What is valvular disease?
  • What are arrhythmias?
  • Investigation of the effects of heart failure through a hands-on practical activity

Week 4:

  • Non-modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease including age, gender and genetics
  • Modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease including smoking, stress, cholesterol, obesity, diet, and physical activity
  • Lifestyle choices that can be made to try and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Calculating the risk of cardiovascular disease with the QRisk Cardiovascular Disease Risk Calculator
  • Investigation of one’s own life style choices

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

  • 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 beginner’s 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 hope that we can explain things in a way that will be easy for anyone to understand. If you get stuck, you can always ask questions in the comments and other learners may be able to help you.

Who will you learn with?

Natasha Barrett

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?

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £49.00

Statement of Participation £34.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.