The cardiovascular system delivers oxygen and nutrients to, and removes carbon dioxide and metabolic waste products from, every cell in the body. It transports hormones (chapter 4) from endocrine glands to their target receptors. The cardiovascular system supports body temperature regulation (chapter 12), and the blood’s buffering capabilities help control the body’s pH. The cardiovascular system maintains appropriate fluid balance across the fluid compartments of the body and helps prevent infection from invading organisms
About the size of a fist and located in the center of the thoracic cavity, the heart is the primary pump that circulates blood through the entire cardiovascular system. As shown in figure 6.1, the heart has two atria that act as receiving chambers and two ventricles that serve as the pumping units. It is enclosed in a tough membranous sac called the pericardium
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Cardiac muscle is collectively called the myocardium or myocardial muscle. Myocardial thickness at various locations in the heart varies according to the amount of stress placed on it. The left ventricle is the most powerful pump of the four heart chambers because it must generate sufficient pressure to pump blood through the entire body. When a person is sitting or standing, the left ventricle must contract with enough force to overcome the effect of gravity, which tends to pool blood in the lower extremities.
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There are also other specialized receptors, called chemoreceptors and mechanoreceptors that send information about the chemical environment in the muscle and the length and tension of the muscle, respectively, to the cardiovascular control centers. These receptors also modify the blood pressure response and are especially important during exercise.
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The remaining formed elements are the blood platelets. These are cell fragments that are required for blood coagulation (clotting), which prevents excessive blood loss. Exercise physiologists are most concerned with red blood cells.
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