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Cardiovascular Disease


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to diseases affecting the heart or blood vessels (arteries, capillaries, veins). CVD can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired. The focus of this lesson is on acquired CVD.

CVD is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States and most nations worldwide. CVD is also associated with a decreased quality of life due to pain and discomfort, exercise intolerance, increased medical bills, and unpleasant side effects of taking necessary medications.

There are many risk factors for CVD, but all of these factors can be divided into two categories: non-modifiable and modifiable. While non-modifiable risk factors are not able to be changed, people who are aware of these risk factors can be more proactive about early detection of disease. Modifiable risk factors can be reduced, especially at a younger age. As such, it is important for adolescents as well as adults to begin reducing or removing modifiable risk factors.

Non-modifiable Risk Factors

  • Age – older adults and postmenopausal women are more likely to acquire CVD
  • Sex – men are more likely to acquire CVD
  • Race/ethnicity – African Americans, Native Americans, and Latino/a
    Americans are more likely to acquire CVD than Asian or Caucasian Americans
  • Family History of CVD/Genetic Factors – persons with a family history of CVD are more likely to acquire CVD

Modifiable Risk Factors

  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides
  • Uncontrolled hypertensionalt
  • Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • High levels of stress over a long period of time
  • High levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation

Major Concepts

The main concepts explored in this lesson are acquired diseases of the heart and circulatory system, risk factors for CVD, the impact of stress, drugs, and diseases on cardiovascular health, health consequences of CVD, and risk reduction.

The goals of Module # 2 are to: 1) increase student knowledge and awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD); 2) introduce students to CVD risk factors and learn how to screen themselves and their families for some of these risk factors, and 3); enhance student motivation to adopt heart-healthy lifestyle habits.

Student Learning Outcomes:

After completing Module 2, students who demonstrate understanding can:

Ask questions:

  • to determine relationships, including quantitative relationships, between independent and dependent variables.
  • to clarify and refine a model, an explanation, or an engineering problem.
  1. Evaluate a question to determine if it is testable and relevant.
  2. Ask and/or evaluate questions that challenge the premise(s) of an argument, the interpretation of a data set, or the suitability of a design.
  3. Make directional hypotheses that specify the effect on heart rate when different drugs are tested in the Daphnia Magna Heart Rate Lab.
  4. Use the Daphnia Magna Heart Rate Lab as a model to generate data that support explanations of how drugs affect heart rate, and then analyze and predict how a change in heart rate can affect cardiovascular health in humans.
  5. Consider limitations of data analysis (e.g., measurement error, sample selection) when analyzing and interpreting data obtained in the Daphnia Magna Heart Rate Lab.
  6. Make qualitative claims regarding the relationship between modifiable risk factors and the development of cardiovascular disease.
  7. Apply scientific reasoning, theory, and/or models to assess the extent to which elevated BMI and hypertension impact cardiovascular health.
  8. Evaluate the claims, evidence, and/or reasoning behind currently accepted explanations of the cardiovascular disease process to determine the merits of arguments.
  9. Critically read scientific literature adapted for classroom use, specifically about hypertension, atherosclerosis, diabetes type II, and effects of drug use on the heart, to determine the central ideas or conclusions and/or to obtain scientific and/or technical information to summarize complex evidence, concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.
  10. Compare, integrate and evaluate sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address how chronic stress impacts the heart and other organ systems, and subsequently identify methods for reducing stress.
  11. Communicate scientific and/or technical information about the development of cardiovascular disease graphically, orally, and textually.
  12. Propose potential future areas of study and research in cardiovascular health.

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