A program that focuses on the scientific study of the structure and functioning of the heart, vascular system, and blood in animals and human beings and the disorders and diseases associated with the cardiovascular system. Includes instruction in cardiovascular physiology, blood physiology, vasculature, vascular metabolism, neural control of cardiovascular function, microvascular permeability and membrane transport, cardiac contraction mechanisms, homeostasis, and applications to topics such as arteriosclerosis, heart disease, diabetes, vascular remodeling, transplantation, transfusion, and pacemakers and artificial organs.
Careers in cardiovascular science focus on the heart and blood, their structure and function, and conditions that affect them.
The cardiovascular system is really several systems working together to power the body. It includes the heart, lungs, veins, and blood vessels, but is also connected to everything else, including the brain and kidneys. The heart itself is essentially a fist-sized engine connected to a series of wires, tubes, and conduits that act as a superhighway for blood, oxygen, and a variety of other hormones, gases, and nutrients. Veins, arteries, and blood vessels transport these essential elements to where they need to be, which is what makes the body work. If the engine stops, it's only a matter of time before everything else around it follows.
Because the heart interacts so closely with every other system in the body, cardiovascular science requires absolute precision and expertise; specialists must understand the complex interactions between each system element and how they drive function in order to know when something is wrong. Abnormal cardiovascular activity can occur for many reasons and result in all kinds of medical difficulties from arrhythmias to strokes and heart attacks. Cardiovascular scientists and physicians are trained to recognize an array of issues and develop or administer an appropriate treatment.
Work in cardiovascular science may include...
- Monitoring heart rate and blood pressure
- Identifying signs of disease or abnormality
- Operating specialized equipment
- Determining genetic, behavioral, or environmental risk factors
- Designing studies and trials
Most work in hospitals, where they may be employed as surgeons, technicians, nurses, or perfusionists, using their clinical skills and knowledge of cardiovascular conditions to help patients directly. Academia employs cardiovascular scientists in teaching, publishing, and research roles, where they can spread and develop their knowledge. Biotechnology companies are constantly working to engineer a foolproof heart, and cardiovascular scientists can be involved in the development of medical devices such as pacemakers and respirators. Some scientists focus on the unique cardiovascular systems of various animals; this can involve either lab or field work, and often requires training in animal science or wildlife biology.
An education in cardiovascular science can go any number of ways, but must always retain certain elements. Most students in undergraduate programs will encounter some cardiovascular and circulatory functions in biology, anatomy, and physiology courses; those who complete Associate's degree programs can qualify for technician roles, while those who complete a Bachelor's may be brought on as lab assistants. Some students opt for clinical or research based Master's programs, which prepare them for careers involving specialized techniques and equipment or for further research opportunities such as PhDs. The traditional path for cardiovascular study is medical school; medical students learn every aspect of the cardiovascular system, from its anatomical structure to the conditions that can affect it, and they can choose to focus on a specific aspect of the discipline during their internships or residencies. Many professionals in the field seek certification, which can include additional training and open doors to more opportunities.
If learning about cardiovascular science makes your heart beat a little bit faster, maybe it's the perfect career for you.
For more information, please follow the links below:
- The Cardiovascular Research Foundation conducts research to help doctors improve survival and quality of life for people suffering from heart and vascular disease.
- The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke.
- The American College of Cardiology aims to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health.
- The International Society for Heart Research promotes research and discovery in the cardiovascular sciences, welcoming all members with an active interest in the cardiovascular system. The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography & Intervention is a medical society representing invasive and interventional cardiology.