The circulatory, or cardiovascular, system consists of the heart, the blood vessels, and the blood itself. It continuously supplies blood to every tissue in the body, providing oxygen, a variety of nutrients, minerals, hormones, antibodies, and clotting agents. It removes metabolic waste products.
The human body's complex network of blood vessels is powered by a central pump—the heart (see below). Blood is pumped out through the aorta into all the major arteries. These subdivide into arterioles and capillaries, through the walls of which nutrients pass into tissues or organs. Contractions of the heart muscle pump blood along the arteries. Blood flow along veins is assisted by the contraction of muscles in the limbs. Valves prevent it from flowing backward. Many of the diseases of the cardiovascular system arise either from the constriction (angina) or blockage (stroke) of blood vessels, from malfunctioning valves, or from problems with the pumping action of the heart (palpitations).
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