Our bodies are made up of many systems that all work together.  Sometimes things go wrong.  Like any machine, these systems can break down.  The circulatory system is one of the body's most important systems.  It is made up of the heart, blood, and blood vessels.  Any of these parts can run into trouble.  If one part is broken, the rest of the system may not work at all.  We cannot live without a working heart.  That means that any trouble with the heart or blood vessels is very dangerous.  Your heart is your life!  Let's find out about some of the most common heart problems.

Ouch, that hurt.


First we need to we talk about coronary circulation.  "Coronary" is a word used to describe heart issues.  Coronary circulation is the name for the flow of blood to and from the muscle cells of the heart.  Your heart is a muscle.  It needs blood just like the rest of your body!     


All the blood for your whole body flows into and out of the heart.  Blood flows through two kinds of blood vessels.  The heart's arteries carry blood with oxygen into your heart.  The veins carry blood full of waste out of your heart.  Because they are so important, many of the worst heart problems happen in these blood vessels.  If these blood vessels are damaged, then the whole body may stop working!  


Heart attacks are one of the most common types of heart problems.  A heart attack happens when the blood carrying oxygen is blocked from reaching the heart.  This happens because the arteries the blood flows through are clogged.  Arteries may become blocked for a number of reasons.  The most common cause is the build up of bad stuff called "plaque" on the walls of the blood vessels.  If too much plaque sticks to the sides of your blood vessels, the blood vessels get narrower.  Then blood cannot flow to the heart.  Without blood flow, the heart will stop working.  This is just like a car that runs out of gas; if there is no gas in the car, then the car will not be able to move.  If blood carrying oxygen does not reach your heart, then a heart attack will happen.


Wow, it's really hard to get to school when the road is blocked.


Sometimes the parts of your blood that are meant to help you can cause problems instead.  For example, there are blood cells that are supposed to stop blood from leaving your body when you get a cut.  A blood clot is when different parts of your blood stick together to stop blood from flowing.  When you get a cut on your knee, these clots help you to stop bleeding.  However, sometimes a blood clot can form inside of your blood vessels.  A blood clot inside of your blood vessels means that your blood might not be able to flow to important parts of your body.  A blood clot is like a big car crash that stops all of the other cars from going where they need to go.  The blood clot stops all of the rest of the blood from going where it needs to go.



Blood clots can cause strokes.  A stroke happens when blood stops flowing to a part of the brain.  Some people even call them "brain attacks" because they are like heart attacks.  Blocked arteries in a heart attack stop the heart from working the right way.  The blood clot in a stroke stops the brain from working normally.


A stroke can cause changes in a person's brain.  Sometimes people who have had a stroke cannot talk or use part of their body.  Other people don't have any of these problems.  It
depends on what part of the brain lost blood flow and how long it did not get any blood.  The brain is an amazing thing.  Even if a part of it dies, other parts can take over the jobs that were performed by the dead part! 

All these treadmills and not one is open? How am I supposed to get any exercise?


The flow of blood through your blood vessels is a lot like cars driving on roads.  If a road is too narrow, then very few cars can drive on it at once.  If a blood vessel has too much plaque stuck on its walls, then very little blood can flow through it.  If a car crash blocks the whole road, then the rest of the cars cannot get to where they need to go.  If a blood clot happens in a blood vessel, then the rest of blood cannot get to the organs and muscles.  Eating healthy food and exercising often can help keep the "roads" of your body healthy and clear.  At the same time, eating fats and smoking can block these same "roads."