Control of Cardiac Output

What are my objectives while studying this topic?

The heart is the central organ within the circulatory system. You will study the structure of the heart and the specialized cells that make up the tissues forming the heart. This will help you understand the function of the heart within the cardiac cycle. You will also study the composition of the blood and how its content is maintained in the circulatory system.

Why is this important?

Fitness and healthcare professionals measure and monitor heart function and the control of the blood flowing to and from the rest of the body by taking physiological measurements. These measurements assist healthcare professionals to improve the well being and performance of an individual’s circulatory system as well as diagnosing cardiovascular diseases.

Can I get an introduction to this topic?

Yes, why not have a look at the following link:

Are there any more links I can take a look at to give me more of an introduction?

Yes, check out the following links, they’ll give you some more background information on respiratory function:

A virtual stethoscope

Audio clips for pulmonary and respiratory function

What will I be expected to be able to do after studying this topic?

You’ll be expected to:

  • Define cardiac output

  • Explain how a heartbeat is initiated

  • Know how to measure the pulse rate

  • Explain how the action of the heart is controlled and its response to external circumstances

What are the key words to learn and use for this topic?

  • Pacemaker

  • Hormones

  • Nerves:

  • Vagus nerve

  • Sympathetic nerve

  • AV node

  • Bundle of His

  • Purkyne tissue

  • Bainbridge reflex

  • Frank-stirling effect

How long will this topic take to study?

On average you’ll be looking at about two to three hours of taught time and independent study.

What are the main activities on this topic?


Define cardiac output by calculating the heart rates from ECGs between one P wave and the next.


Find pulse points and take pulse/heartbeat rate measurements with your fingers or with a stethoscope. Compare normal values as given in the specification p15 Table 1 ‘Normal values for some physiological measurements'.


Take your own pulse rate to determine the effects of different levels or types of physical activity. You could also investigate recovery rates.


Discuss the sequence initiating a heartbeat to include the function of the pacemaker and the effects of the nervous system and hormones on the heartbeat produced by the heart.


Revision Notes:

Take a look at the following link; you can get some good notes for revision of theory.

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