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Why is it important to understand cardiovascular disease?

Infographic showing cardiovascular disease statistics for the UK and an introduction to what's covered in Week 1 of 'Heart Health'
© University of Reading

This infographic contains some shocking details of the mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease in the UK and around the world. It shows why it’s so important to understand as much as we can about keeping our hearts and cardiovascular systems healthy, the lifestyle factors that affect them and the clinical treatments that are helping to reduce the death rates.

infographic with picture of heart surrounded by following text: 27%: Cardiovascular disease is responsible for more than a quarter of all deaths (UK); One stroke every five minutes; 7.6 million: the number of people living with heart disease (UK); 163,888 people died of cardiovascular diseases in the UK in 2019 ie. 450 per day or 1 every 3 minutes; For the under 75s, CVD death rates halved between 2000 and 2018. In 2018 death rate was 76 per 100,000. In 2000 death rate was 166 per 100,000; CVD rates around the world vary - averages given are per 100,000 people for 2017: Global average = 233, Europe average = 223, UK = 122, North America = 146, Latic America and Caribbean = 167, Asia = 251, Africa = 289, Australasia = 111

Do these figures surprise you? Can you think of additional reasons why it’s important to understand cardiovascular diseases? Please share them in the comments section below.

Welcome to Week 1: Cardiovascular anatomy and physiology

We’ll start by exploring the anatomy and function of blood and the circulatory system. We’ll then look at the anatomy of the heart and how it works. There’s a practical exercise you can do at home which involves dissecting a lamb’s heart (you can purchase one from the butcher’s). If, however, you’re squeamish, we cover everything you need to know in the main teaching videos.

Learning objectives

In order to understand cardiovascular disease, first we need to learn about the anatomy and function of the cardiovascular system. By the end of this week you should be able to:

  • Understand the overall structure and function of the cardiovascular system, consisting of the circulatory system and the heart as a pump.

  • Identify the different types of blood vessel, blood cells and plasma.

  • Describe the structure of the heart including its four chambers, the major blood vessels and the smaller ones that supply the heart muscle with vital blood and oxygen, and the heart valves and their function in regulating the flow of blood through the heart.

  • Follow the cardiac cycle and how this relates to an ECG (electrocardiogram).

© University of Reading
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Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease

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