Burning Issues

Mechanisms of Disease and the Healthy Cardiovascular System.

Injury to the body is never neat. Disease is disorder. You put something in the lungs and it can affect the heart or the immune system. Chemical messages will be changed; micro particulate interferes with body micro management and different disease processes appear. Sometimes it is simply a matter of using up the body's resilience, wearing down healthy cells and pathways down repeatedly until one injury releases a slow cascade of predictable and ultimately fatal outcomes to the human body. As one widow said of her recently deceased husband who was a heavy smoker: "I knew smoking wasn't good for him, but I didn't realize it would take him so soon." Wood smoking will also destroy the body; smoke is a body invader. It is now possible to test urine for by products of inhaled wood smoke that have passed right through the body. The analysis even shows what kind of wood was burned.

A healthy life depends on the constant and magic activities of the cardiovascular system.

The cardiovascular system includes the heart, lungs, blood vessels and a gallon and a half of blood. It transports oxygen and removes the carbon dioxide that results from oxygen combustion. We have 50,000 miles of vessels to shuttle the gallon and a half of blood around. Most of these vessels are microscopic capillaries that act as the only functioning exchange for oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients and waste materials. Their channels are just large enough for one lozenge shaped red blood cell to pass inside.

The heart is the size of a human fist, weighs less than a pound and pumps twenty quarts of blood a minute. Vigorous exercise causes it to pump four times as much blood. In a year it pumps 1.5 million gallons of blood around when the body is at rest. It has two chambers that need to be coordinated to function together. Hormones, chemicals, smoke and nerve impulses can alter the rhythm.

The blood as part of its transport function helps the body maintain balance in temperature, acidity, total fluid, and balance in the fluid. Blood acidity must be just right for oxygen exchange to take place. Half of the blood is made up of red blood cells that contain an iron-based protein that picks up oxygen. There are 300 million molecules of this protein in each red blood cell. The protein also picks up carbon monoxide (CO) 200 times more than oxygen! Breathing high levels of CO causes death as tissues are deprived of oxygen.

The lung is not a hollow sack that collapses when emptied. It consists of millions of tiny sacks called alveoli that fill with air. This spongy mass of tissues, shaped like an inverted tree, has a stem and branches, and sets of branches, that get smaller and smaller. Bronchioles end the conducting system. The tree lining cells have little hairs (cilia) that move foreign objects toward your mouth, and digestive tract to remove them. The little sacks are served by capillary beds with diameters just big enough for a red blood cell. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged here. If the flow of the capillary bed is obstructed by micro particulate tissue suffocates and a further cascade of harmful chemicals is released.

Smoke is in the way of the work of the lung.

Every time you breathe smoke a tiny death occurs, cells are injured, some will not be able to recover and they die. Human survival from burns has increased with new medical technology. Human survival from smoke inhalation has not. Once a delicate balance is tipped by the combined attack of the toxic chemicals, and gases that smoke carries deep into the lung, some people cannot be saved even with modern antibiotics, and will die in spite of the best medical efforts, days or months after the exposure. Others will suffer permanent long-term damage that can not be reversed by diet, medicine, physical therapy, or fresh air.

Mary J.Rozenberg, 2001

Understanding the Human Body: an Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology
Parts I-IV, Prof. Anthony Goodman, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Montana State University, Courses 162-164.
1998, The Teaching Company, Chantilly, VA 20151-1232

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