Circulatory System; Round and Round

On any given day throughout our life, we have a cycle that we complete.  We wake up in the morning, and then, in our own way, we prepare for the day.  This includes many things; however, it usually always includes providing some sort of nutrition to our system and a bit of waste elimination from our body.  Next, we head out for the day.  This can be quite variable throughout our life and can include anything from running a multi-national company to making your way down the hall to the bingo tournament.  Regardless, the point is, each day happens and we participate in it, one way or another.  During this day, we interact with different situations, other people, provide information, receive more nutrition, and deposit more waste.  At the end of the day, we make it back home, or to our resting place for the night, where we rest and become recharged so that we will be in a position to begin the entire process over tomorrow.

Conscious or unconscious, aware or not aware, our circulatory system is flowing through a similar cycle 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for our entire life.  On average, approximately 5 liters of blood is pumping through our entire circulatory system at any given moment.  This system is comprised of three distinct sub-systems, the coronary circulation, pulmonary circulation and systemic circulation.  All three of these circulatory systems work in concert with each other to provide oxygenated and nutrient rich blood to all of our tissues with the goal of sustaining life.  The system also works to help rid us of all our waste products, whether it be liquid, solid or gas.  What follows is a simplified version of how our circulatory system functions to provide us with our minute by minute energy needs.

Our heart is the pump that keeps this entire system working.  The process begins when our heart pumps oxygen and nutrient rich blood into our blood vessels.  This is the mechanism for carrying these nutrients and oxygen to all of our tissues, from our brain to our toes.  Eventually, after the body has used much of the nutrients, the blood will reach our kidneys (renal circulation) where waste is filtered from the blood. 

From the kidneys, the nutrient poor blood continues its path into the small intestines.  At this interchange, a large transaction takes place.  As blood flows into the small intestines it is directed through the liver where it is then re-directed back out toward the heart.  The liver will filter waste and will also store left over nutrients and sugars.  When we eat, food travels through our stomach and into our small intestines, where our body absorbs nutrients.   The left over matter, after nutrient absorption, will then be eliminated in our waste. 

From the small intestines, our un-oxygenated blood, which is rich in both waste and new nutrients, will be pumped back to the heart.  The heart has a tremendous mechanism which receives this used blood, and then pumps it into the pulmonary system (our lungs).  The lungs will then filter the blood, exchanging oxygen for the waste, and then send the blood back to our heart, rich in oxygen and nutrients, ready to start the process over again.

This system is tremendous at keeping us alive, despite all the stress we put on it.  Our circulatory system provides nutrition and oxygen to all of our tissues, and then works to filter out all of the waste and garbage.  At a moment's notice, our system will respond to our physical needs, whether they be exertion or rest related.  With that in mind, it is important to understand that if something does not work appropriately at any point along the system, the entire system is affected.

Our heart is the pump that keeps the blood flowing.  If the heart has some irregular rhythm, or slows down or speeds up, the amount of blood being circulated will be affected.  An irregular rhythm may also lead to a clot that may clog one of the circulation pipes and cause a stroke or heart attack.

Our blood vessels are the pipes that circulate our blood to all of the tissues.  There are many different reasons that will cause the vessels to either relax or constrict which will affect our blood pressure.  This in turn affects how hard the heart works and changes the level of circulation.

Our kidneys are similar to the faucet in the house.  If, for one reason or another, the renal circulatory system is not working well, the filtering system may back up and not be eliminating the waste products as well as it should.  This then affects the entire circulatory system.

Finally, our lungs are similar to an air filter system.  What happens when the air filter becomes clogged?  Well, the air does not get filtered and it is much more difficult to get the oxygen we need for survival. 

Of course, we have medications that affect each and every system.  These medications work to help our circulation flowing as best as it can.  Remember, we only have one chance at keeping a strong and healthy circulatory system.  Understand that each and every time we breath, eat or drink we are providing energy and nutrition to our body.  Our circulatory system then needs to either use that nutrition, put it into the waste pile, or store it for later use.

Following is a list of different blogs that discuss other aspects of our circulatory system.

Heart Rhythm
Calcium Channel Blockers
ACEI’s and ARB’s
Blood Pressure
Renal Function


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