Respiratory System

In the human body, a division of labour has evolved so that there are numerous different types of cell, each highly specialised and adapted for a particular function. All these cells work together in a co-ordinated manner to achieve ‘health’. Each cell requires an adequate supply of oxygen and other nutrients and needs to get rid of waste products. The fluid environment in which cells exist is called tissue fluid and makes up the internal environment. The temperature, pressure and pH of this internal environment also need to remain within relatively narrow limits in order for cells to function in a healthy and efficient manner. When cells function together to maintain this relatively stable internal environment, a state of homeostasis is achieved- this is comparable with a state of health.

The cells which form the organs and tissues of the respiratory system have a number of roles including the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen. Breathing involves inhaling air containing oxygen and exhaling air with increased amounts of carbon dioxide, a waste product. The cardiovascular system is responsible for the transport of blood, carrying various substances, throughout the body. The two systems are closely integrated and often if one responds to a change in the body then this will also be manifested in the other.

A variety of physiological needs have to be met in order to remain healthy and these include maintaining the right amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the internal environment and maintaining the right volume of fluids which contribute to sustaining blood pressure. So when the body carries out an activity where the muscles need more oxygen and nutrients to function efficiently then the cardiovascular system responds to increase the flow of blood and heart rate increases. The respiratory system needs to ensure sufficient oxygen is provided so respiration rate increases. Both systems also ensure the removal of waste products.

When the needs of the body are not met then problems may occur. Have you ever experienced cramp in your legs after physical exertion, this is due to a build up of a waste product called lactic acid which is produced when there is too little oxygen available to cells.

Observations of breathing rate, pulse rate and blood pressure can provide information about a patient’s state of health. You will develop the skills of observation and interpreting your findings whilst in practice.

Click on the left hand links to access the respiratory system information

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