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Key Ideas

  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in adults in this country.
  • Cardiovascular risk factors can be genetic and/or the result of personal choice.
  • Making healthy choices can reduce the risk of getting cardiovascular disease.


In this section students apply what they have learned about the circulatory system by investigating the causes of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in this country. Keeping the heart strong and arteries clear are achievable goals for most people. Some risk factors are easy to control by making informed choices. Becoming aware of these risk factors helps students learn different ways of controlling them, leading to improved cardiovascular health.



\checkmark design and implement an experiment to determine pulse rate under different conditions.

\checkmark describe how each of the following risk factors can contribute to cardiovascular disease—smoking, cholesterol level, high blood pressure, obesity, genetic predisposition, and lack of exercise.

\checkmark construct a food pyramid to show healthy eating choices.

\checkmark distinguish between aerobic activities and non-aerobic activities.

\checkmark list examples of aerobic activities.

\checkmark evaluate and determine their own risk profiles and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Scores.


aerobic exercise, aneurysm, heart attack, stroke, target heart-rate zone

Student Materials

Activity 7-1: Pulse Rate

  • Activity Report
  • Clock or watch with a second hand

Teacher Materials

Activity 7-1: Pulse Rate

  • Activity Report Answer Key
  • Clock with a second hand

Advance Preparation

See Activity 7-1 in the Student Edition.

Obtain a clock with a second hand.

Interdisciplinary Connections

Math Students compare pulse rates and target heart rate zones among classes and summarize results in charts, in graphs, and on a computer program.

Language Arts Students write persuasive letters encouraging good heart health regarding diet, exercise, stress, and smoking.

Health Education Students can contact the local Heart Association to ask for ideas for service projects in the community that promote good cardiovascular health.

Visual and Performing Arts Students role-play various stressful situations and how to respond in order to minimize stress on the cardiovascular system.

Physical Education Students explore the effects of training and regular exercise on maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.

Enrichment Activity

Enrichment 7-1: Cardiovascular Disease Risk Scoring

Background Information

According to the American Heart Association approximately 954,000 Americans die each year of cardiovascular disease. That number is over half of the total number of deaths each year in the United States. Atherosclerosis, sometimes called the “silent killer,” is ultimately responsible for these deaths. Atherosclerosis takes several years to develop as the artery walls become lined with fatty, cholesterol-rich deposits. Healthy arteries are lined internally with smooth endothelial cells that, when damaged, accumulate fatty deposits or plaque. Platelets stick to the plaque, and a fibrous cap forms over the site, but the plaque continues to grow, narrowing the artery. Hardening of the arteries, or arteriosclerosis, occurs when calcium deposits in the plaque reduce the elasticity of the arteries. If part of the cap over the plaque breaks off, a blood clot or thrombus can form. The coronary arteries are susceptible to atherosclerosis. When plaque forms in these arteries, it reduces the flow of blood to the heart, resulting in chest pains and shortness of breath. If the plaque completely blocks the vessel, a heart attack results. Strokes are the result of a thrombus (called an embolus when dislodged in the bloodstream), which breaks loose and lodges in a blood vessel in the brain, blocking the flow of blood. This causes the brain cells fed by the artery to die. Depending on the location of the artery, the result can be memory loss, speech impairment, or paralysis.

Atherosclerosis can be reduced and even prevented by avoiding the risk factors that contribute to it. Smoking, high-fat and high-cholesterol diet, sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes are all well-known risk factors.

This section helps students apply what they've learned in this unit to real-life situations and to ways they can improve their health habits and reduce the health risks to their cardiovascular systems.

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