B1 - High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease

Key facts on blood pressure and heart disease that you will be required to know for your biology GCSE.

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How does smoking increase blood pressure?

Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that cause all sorts of problems, some of which cause high blood pressure.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is one of these. It combines with the haemoglobin in the red blood cells, which reduces their oxygen carrying capacity. This then means that the heart rate has to increase to get enough oxygen to the body cells, and this increases blood pressure as the heart contracts more often.

The other is nicotine. This is a stimulant, and therefore increases the rate at which the body works. Heart rate is forced to increase, as is blood pressure.

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How does poor diet lead to heart disease?

First of all, what IS heart disease? Funnily enough, it is any disease that effects the heart. This includes heart attacks.

Diets high in saturated fats can lead to heart disease. This is because it can cause a build up of cholesterol in the artery walls (called a plaque) and this narrows them. If this happens, the heart has to pump harder to get the blood through the narrowed artery. If a blood clot (thrombosis) was then to pass through that artery, it would get stuck and cause a heart attack.

Diets high in salt can also cause heart disease. This is because consuming too much salt causes high blood pressure, which increases the likelihood of artery damage and plaques.

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Key words you MUST know

Carbon monoxide - a chemical in cigarette smoke that leads to high bp

Nicotine - a chemical in cigarette smoke that leads to high bp

Cholesterol - a fatty substance in the blood

Heart disease - disease that affects the heart, e.g. heart attack

Plaque - build up of cholesterol in the artery wall

Thrombosis - blood clot

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