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Physiology of Cardiovascular System

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Cardiovascular system

(‘Rasavaha Srotas’) originates at heart and ten great vessels attached to it(Ca. Vi. 5/7). Ten vessels may be indicating two venae cavae (superior and inferior), one aorta, four pulmonary veins, one pulmonary trunk and two coronary arteries- as all these are directly connected to heart.

Contents of Cardiovascular Compartment

The term ‘Rasa’ stands for all circulating fluids in the body including the fluid portion of blood (Cakrapāni on Ca.Ci. 15/36). ‘Rasa’ is also the minutest and essential fraction of properly digested food. Heart is the site for this ‘Rasa’ (Su. Sū. 14/3). This ‘Rasa’ circulates in the body along with ‘Rakta’ (Ātañkadarpana on Mā. Ni. 33/4). Ten great blood vessels connected to heart carry the ‘Rasātmaka Ojas’, on which the whole life process is dependent (A.H. Śā. 3/18). From the above references it is clear that three major substances circulate in the cardiovascular compartment- the first one is ‘Rasa’- the liquid nutrient portion of blood (Plasma); the second substance is ‘Rakta’, the oxygen- carrying red material (RBCs); and the third one is ‘Ojas’- the white substance that is responsible for immunity (WBCs).

Autonomic Control of Heart

‘Vyāna Vāta’ is responsible for the forceful ejection of ‘Rasa Dhātu’ from the heart that later circulates all over the body to perform its function of providing nutrition (Ca. Ci. 15/36 and Su. Ni. 1/17).

Cardio Vascular System is a Closed Circuit

‘Rasa’ is ejected out of the heart. It is then carried to all parts of the body. The blood vessels called ‘Sirās’ bring it back to the heart (Bh.Sū. 21).

Structure and Functioning of Heart

Appearance of heart is similar to that of an inverted bud of lotus. When the individual is ‘awake’, this lotus blossoms forth and when he is ‘asleep’, it closes up (Su. Śā. 4/32). The narrow apex of the heart is directed downwards and broader base is directed upwards when the individual is standing. This observation is reflected in this explanation saying that the heart looks like an inverted bud of lotus. To indicate ‘life’ and ‘death’, the terms ‘awake’ and ‘asleep’ are often used in Sanskrit literature. So, meaning of this statement is that functioning of heart continues till the death of an individual.

Mean Flow Velocity of Blood

The manner, in which ‘Rasa’ moves all over the body, is exactly similar to the manner in which sound, fire and water move (Su.Sū. 4/16). As per the view of different commentators, velocity with which sound moves is greater than that of fire and the velocity of fire is greater than that of water. Therefore, it can be said that this is the explanation of the mean flow velocity of blood which is maximum in the aorta and minimum in the capillaries. This is because the smallest cross-sectional area, which receives the entire output of the blood from heart, is aorta and accordingly, the mean flow velocity is highest in that vessel.