The cardiovascular system, in addition to needing to maintain itself within certain levels, plays a role in maintenance of other body systems by transporting hormones (Atrial Natriuretic Peptide and Brain Natriuretic Peptide, or ANP and BNP, respectively) and nutrients (oxygen, EPO to bones, etc.), taking away waste products, and providing all living body cells with a fresh supply of oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. Homeostasis is disturbed if the cardiovascular or lymphatic systems are not functioning correctly. Our skin, bones, muscles, lungs, digestive tract, and nervous, endocrine, lymphatic, urinary, and reproductive systems use the cardiovascular system as its "road" or "highway" as far as distribution of things such as nutrients, oxygen, waste products, hormones, drugs, etc. There are many risk factors for an unhealthy cardiovascular system. Some diseases associated are typically labeled "uncontrollable" or "controllable." The main uncontrollable risk factors are age, gender, and a family history of heart disease, especially at an early age.
The cardiovascular system also contains sensors to monitor blood pressure, called baroreceptors, that work by detecting how stretched a blood vessel is. This information is relayed to the medulla oblongata in the brain where action is taken to raise or lower blood pressure via the autonomic nervous system.
The main components of the human cardiovascular system are the heart, blood, and blood vessels. It includes: the pulmonary circulation, a "loop" through the lungs where blood is oxygenated; and the systemic circulation, a "loop" through the rest of the body to provide oxygenated blood. An average adult contains five to six quarts (roughly 4.7 to 5.7 liters) of blood, which consists of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Also, the digestive system works with the circulatory system to provide the nutrients the system needs to keep the heart pumping.
Systemic circulation is the portion of the cardiovascular system that transports oxygenated blood away from the heart, to the rest of the body, and returns oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart. Systemic circulation is, distance-wise, much longer than pulmonary circulation, transporting blood to every part of the body.
The cardiovascular systems of humans are closed, meaning that the blood never leaves the network of blood vessels. In contrast, oxygen and nutrients diffuse across the blood vessel layers and enter interstitial fluid, which carries oxygen and nutrients to the target cells, and carbon dioxide and wastes in the opposite direction. The other component of the circulatory system, the lymphatic system, is not closed.
Blood pressure (BP) is the pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of blood vessels. It is one of the principal vital signs. When used without further specification, "blood pressure" usually refers to the arterial pressure of the systemic circulation. During each heartbeat, blood pressure varies between a maximum (systolic) and a minimum (diastolic) pressure. The blood pressure in the circulation is principally due to the pumping action of the heart. Differences in mean blood pressure are responsible for blood flow from one location to another in the circulation. The rate of mean blood flow depends on the resistance to flow presented by the blood vessels. Mean blood pressure decreases as the circulating blood moves away from the heart through arteries, capillaries, and veins due to viscous losses of energy. Mean blood pressure drops over the whole circulation, although most of the fall occurs along the small arteries and arterioles. Gravity affects blood pressure via hydrostatic forces (e.g., during standing) and valves in veins, breathing, and pumping from contraction of skeletal muscles also influence blood pressure in veins.