Age-Related Changes to the Cardiovascular System: Types & Effects

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  • 0:02 Cardiovascular System
  • 1:39 Adult and Later Diseases
  • 3:44 Effect of Disease
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

The heart is one of those organs that's really difficult to live without since it is responsible for moving blood throughout your body. In this lesson, we'll explore some of the issues that can happen to the heart and the cardiovascular system.

Cardiovascular System

Let's just take a moment to marvel at the cardiovascular system. It is a series of tubes and pipes, which can stretch or narrow, that fills your entire body. With a unique fractal design, no cell is more than a short distance away from any blood vessel. Furthermore, the cardiovascular system has thin points in the lungs that allow it to become oxygenated, as well as cleaning points in the kidneys and liver to purify it of toxins. And every single person has one of these massive networks.

The cardiovascular system, sometimes referred to as the circulatory system, is a group of organs and tissues tasked with circulating blood flow throughout the body. This includes:

  • The heart
  • Blood vessels
  • Lymph system
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Lungs

There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, and all of them are necessary for the whole system to work. Think about a bike; it is relatively simple with wheels, a frame, a chain and pedals. If one part of that simple machine is busted, then the whole system kind of collapses. Like if your chain breaks, you aren't going anywhere. Or if the pedal falls off, then it hurts a lot to try and pedal on that little metal bit that is still there.

Like anything with many parts, any of them can go wrong and lead to some kind of disease or major problem. Let's look at some of the common cardiovascular problems that afflict an adult, and then we will transition into the effects these diseases have.

Adult and Later Diseases

Cardiovascular disease is a broad term describing any issue with the heart or circulatory system. It's a catch-all term, sort of like cancer; it doesn't specify exactly what the problem areas are. Under its umbrella are included strokes, heart attacks, heart failures, arrhythmias and heart valve problems. Most of these issues are due to a plaque buildup in the circulatory system.

If you imagine the whole circulatory system as a highway system, the plaque is like debris on the side of the road (broken down cars, old couches, tumbleweeds and other trash). Eventually some of this junk is going to spill out into the road and cause an accident. This will either shut down the road, which is a heart attack, or cause the cars to spill out into the dirt all around it, which is a stroke.

There is an estimated 83.6 million people in the United States with cardiovascular disease. Almost half of them would be considered elderly, with approximately 42.2 million over the age of 60 having cardiovascular disease. In addition to making up a large percentage of those with cardiovascular disease, the elderly have an increased chance of something going wrong. As we age, there are increased chances of strokes as the circulatory system ages and is more prone to breaking. Each year increases the chance of this happening.

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