Just like you need to change the oil in your car or even have your furnace inspected and serviced from time to time to keep them in good working order, it’s also important to maintain your body for longevity. There are 11 body systems you need to know about and maintain, and each one plays a vital role in keeping you healthy. Here is an in-depth guide to learn from.
Cardiovascular (Circulatory) System
What is it? The cardiovascular (sometimes called circulatory) system starts with your heart, which is the circulatory powerhouse. It also contains the nearly 100,000 miles’ worth of blood vessels – arteries, veins, and capillaries – spread throughout your body, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
What does it do? The cardiovascular system’s role is to carry oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to all the organs and cells in your body. It also absorbs and carries away the waste products created by your body. To do its job properly, the cardiovascular system must start with a strong heart, and it must also have clear, dilated blood vessels that are wide enough to allow for ample blood flow.
What are the most common cardiovascular issues? Of all the body systems, physicians agree that the cardiovascular system is the one most likely to cause health problems. Heart disease is the number one killer of people in the United States, Canada, and many other countries around the world. Clogged arteries due to high cholesterol and the resulting high blood pressure are often called “silent killers” because they often present no symptoms until they cause a heart attack.
How do you maintain it? The two best ways to maintain the cardiovascular system involve diet and exercise. It’s important to avoid consuming too much food that is rich in saturated fat, as this fat can deposit itself in your arteries, where it slows blood flow and increases blood pressure. It’s also important to participate in aerobic/cardiovascular exercise. These specific types of exercise are designed to increase your heart rate, which keeps it healthy and strong.
Digestive (Excretory) System
What is it? The digestive system is a series of hollow organs through which food passes. The parts of the body that make up this body system include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestine (both small and large), rectum, and anus. However, there are a few solid organs that also play vital roles in the digestive system. These are the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.
What does it do? Like all body systems, the digestive system plays a very crucial role in keeping you healthy. It has three main functions: to break food down into digestible material, called chyme; to absorb and/or secrete nutrients and bodily fluids into the blood and the intestines; and to process and eliminate waste. Simply put, the digestive system is responsible for ensuring that you can derive the proper nutrition and energy from the food you consume, and it also ensures that the materials your body can’t use are excreted.
What are the most common digestive issues? The most common digestive issues today include acid reflux, gallstones, Crohn’s disease (an autoimmune disorder), ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and diverticulitis. While some of these conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, cannot necessarily be prevented, it’s possible to avoid others by paying close attention to your diet.
How do you maintain it? The best way to keep the digestive system healthy and happy involves eating a balanced diet that contains plenty of insoluble and soluble fiber. You should incorporate prebiotics into your diet, which consist of indigestible fiber products that the healthy bacteria in your gut can feed on and thrive. You should eat on a schedule and avoid excessively large meals, and limit your consumption of foods that are very high in fat. Finally, it’s important to keep your body well-hydrated. This helps to ensure regular bowel movements and the proper absorption of nutrients into the body.
What is it? The endocrine system is one of the most important body systems because it’s necessary to produce hormones regulating everything from childhood growth to reproduction. The major parts of the endocrine system include the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, the thyroid, the adrenal glands, and the reproductive organs themselves – the ovaries and testes. The pancreas is part of the endocrine and digestive body systems.
What does it do? The primary function of the endocrine system is to produce and regulate the body’s hormones. Each type of hormone has a direct effect on certain tissue types and organs. How well you sleep at night, your ability to father a child or get pregnant, your weight, and even your overall health are all directly related to the cocktail of hormones in your bloodstream at any given point in time.
What are the most common endocrine issues? There are numerous disorders that can be caused by hormonal imbalances. Of these, diabetes is the most common. It occurs when body resists the effects of a hormone known as insulin, which is responsible for breaking down the sugars in the food you eat and converting them to energy. Other endocrine disorders include hypothyroidism and even osteoporosis.
How do you maintain it? Experts agree that there are cases in which endocrine disorders cannot be avoided or cured by living a healthy lifestyle. However, when it comes to diabetes – and especially Type 2 diabetes – it’s possible to prevent or reverse its effects. Eating a balanced diet, limiting your consumption of refined sugars and dairy products, getting ample rest, and exercising regularly are all very important to maintaining proper hormonal balance.
Integumentary (Exocrine) System
What is it? The integumentary system is more commonly known as the exocrine system. It consists of the salivary, sweat, mammary, sebaceous, and mucous glands located throughout your body. Essentially, any gland that secretes a substance through a duct is considered an exocrine gland.
What does it do? The integumentary system is responsible for several very important bodily functions. For example, it helps your body produce sweat, which keeps you from overheating when you exercise or when you’re exposed to a high temperature. It also produces the oils on your skin and scalp that keep them healthy, and it’s responsible for producing milk that is important for a healthy baby. The exocrine system is one of the most versatile body systems as it aids in digestion, immune health, reproduction, and more.
What are the most common exocrine issues? Medical conditions that can affect the exocrine system include ulcers, cancer, obstructions (clogged ducts), and even sebaceous cysts, which are relatively common. Some of these conditions can be avoided with the proper care, but others are genetic.
How do you maintain it? Because each gland in the exocrine system produces and/or secretes some type of fluid substance, the absolute best way to keep those glands functioning is to stay hydrated. It’s vital to consume at least 64 fluid ounces of water each day; being even slightly dehydrated can thicken these secretions and make it more difficult for them to travel through their intended ducts, which can cause obstructions.
Lymphatic (Immune) System
What is it? The immune system, also known as the lymphatic system, is your body’s first line of defense when it comes to fighting off both bacterial and viral infections. It consists of tissues and organs that are designed to protect your body in several ways. The most important part of the lymphatic system is the lymph nodes, which are located all throughout your body. In fact, when you go to the doctor because you have an illness, it’s likely that he or she checks your lymph nodes for swelling by using his or her fingers to press areas just below your lower jaw – this is where the lymph nodes are very close to the surface of your skin.
What does it do? The primary role of the immune system is to transport a fluid called lymph all throughout your body. Lymph is a substance that contains white blood cells – the warriors in your body’s battle against infection. The lymphatic system also plays a part in ridding your body of waste and toxins by collecting fluid from tissues and individual cells, passing it through the body.
What are the most common immune issues? Perhaps the most well-known lymphatic issue is tonsillitis. Your tonsils are lymph glands that are in the back of your mouth; they can become inflamed and infected, and many people have their tonsils removed when they are children due to this predisposition of infection. Edema is another common lymphatic system issue; it occurs when there is too much fluid in the tissues due to a blockage somewhere in the system, which can be caused by several factors, including obesity and underlying medical conditions.
How do you maintain it? There are two ways to protect your lymphatic system, and they’re both very simple. First, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water each day since studies have shown that dehydration is the primary cause of lymphatic issues. You should also get plenty of exercise each day. The lymphatic system relies on the contraction of muscles to move fluid around your body, and a sedentary lifestyle can hinder this process.
What is it? The musculoskeletal system is made up of bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other tissues that support your body. They are also important for maintaining the inner structure of your body and binding various tissues and organs together. It’s one of the most vital body systems since it serves as a framework for the rest of your body.
What does it do? Your bones not only support your weight and keep you strong, but they also serve as your body’s primary storage system for calcium and protect your organs. Muscles keep your bones in place and provide a means to move your bones on demand through contraction and release. Things like ligaments, tendons, and cartilage allow different groups of bones and muscles to move together, which allows for more complex and defined movement.
What are the most common musculoskeletal issues? There are numerous disorders that can affect the musculoskeletal system. The most common disease affecting the bones is osteoporosis, which is a lack of bone density that results in porous, easily-broken bones. Osteoarthritis is also quite common; it’s the degeneration of the tissues in the joints that can cause pain and swelling. Rheumatoid arthritis, which is an immune disorder, affects the bones and joints, and there are several diseases that can cause muscular atrophy, which is a degeneration of muscle tissue.
How do you maintain it? The best way to ensure that you’re keeping your bones healthy is to consume plenty of phosphate and calcium along with vitamin D. Without sufficient calcium and phosphate, which rely upon vitamin D for absorption, your bones cannot stay strong, and osteoporosis may result. To keep your muscles healthy, it’s important to exercise regularly, paying attention to all your body’s muscle groups. Your muscles need a constant supply of protein, and they need ample nutrition. A balanced diet and plenty of exercise is the best way to maintain this and other body systems.
What is it? The nervous system consists of the brain, brain stem, spinal cord, and nerves. It’s divided into two main parts, which are called the central and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system is the brain and spinal cord; the peripheral nervous system contains the nerve fibers that start at the spinal cord and travel throughout your body, including your muscles and organs.
What does it do? The nervous system is by far the most complex of all the body systems, and while it has been studied extensively, even the brightest and most dedicated medical professionals aren’t certain exactly how it works. In short, a series of electrical impulses travels from the brain to the nerves via the spinal cord, and vice versa, which allows for movement, the sensation of pain, and ultimately, your ability to perceive things through your senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.
What are the most common nervous system issues? Nervous system issues are typically considered neurodegenerative diseases. That’s because these issues stem from a degeneration of the neurons in the brain. The most common disorders include things like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, though ALS and MS also affect the nervous system. The majority of these conditions are genetic, which means they are likely to be passed from parent to child.
How do you maintain it? Although it’s not always possible to completely prevent a nervous system disorder, there is evidence to suggest that it may be possible to slow the progression or onset with certain diets and activities. First, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, since this gives your brain (the core of your nervous system) time to reset and recharge. Next, make sure your diet includes sodium, calcium, potassium, vitamin B and vitamin B12. These keep your nervous system healthy and allow it to work optimally. Finally, make sure you’re getting plenty of physical and mental exercise.
Renal (Urinary) System
What is it? The renal system, otherwise known as the urinary system, consists of all the organs in your body that create, store, and release urine. These include your kidneys, ureters, urethra, and bladder. It’s one of several body systems designed to keep you healthy by removing waste products from your body.
What does it do? Urine itself is produced in your kidneys. A series of blood vessels carry blood to the kidneys, which then filter waste and extra water from that blood. Once the kidneys make urine, it flows into the bladder through two very thin tubes – one originating at each kidney – to the bladder, where it is stored. When your bladder is full, the urine can pass through your urethra for elimination.
What are the most common renal issues? By far, the most common renal issues include kidney stones and urinary tract infections. These are both quite common, and they can cause significant pain and discomfort for the sufferer. Fortunately, they are typically preventable, and in most cases, they are easily treated, too.
How do you maintain it? The best way to protect and maintain your renal system is to stay hydrated. After all, when you are dehydrated, your body produces little urine. This means the toxins are more concentrated in that urine, and they’re more likely to cause infections of the kidneys, bladder, and urethra. Women can prevent urinary tract infections by cleansing themselves from front to back, which introduces fewer bacteria to the urethra. Finally, both men and women can take steps to prevent the formation of kidney stones, which include avoiding foods rich in oxalates, staying hydrated, and reducing their sodium intake. If possible, get your dietary calcium from food rather than from supplements, too.
What is it? The reproductive system is comprised of sex organs that all work together for sexual reproduction. In men, the reproductive system includes the scrotum, testes, penis, urethra, prostate gland, vas deferens, and seminal vesicles. In women, the reproductive system includes the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, mammary glands, breasts, vulva, and vagina. In both sexes, the reproductive system relies on other body systems, such as the endocrine system, for its health.
What does it do? The reproductive system is necessary for conception, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. For men, the purpose of the reproductive system is to create and deposit sperm. For women, the reproductive system serves many purposes. It produces egg cells, which require fertilization by sperm to start developing into a fetus. It also protects and nourishes that fetus during pregnancy and even after birth thanks to the mammary system.
What are the most common reproductive issues? Some of the most common disorders affecting the reproductive system include sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), infertility, and cancer. In some cases, it’s possible for one of these disorders to be the direct cause of another. For example, both cancer and STDs can cause infertility, but certain STDs may also cause cancer.
How do you maintain it? Protecting your reproductive system requires taking responsibility for your physical health. For example, you’ll need to eat a balanced diet for your body to produce ample amounts of testosterone or estrogen, which are required for a healthy reproductive system. However, it’s also important to practice safe sex, which can prevent the transmission of STDs.
What is it? The respiratory system consists of your airways, your lungs, the associated blood vessels, and even the muscles that make breathing possible, such as your diaphragm. Simply put, it’s the body system that allows your body to take in and process oxygen, which is vital for human life.
What does it do? When you take a breath through your mouth or nose, the air travels through these openings, down through your trachea and your bronchi, and into your lungs. Here, special sacs called alveoli absorb the oxygen you breathe in, and exchange that oxygen for the carbon dioxide you exhale. The oxygen is transferred to blood vessels where it is carried throughout your body.
What are the most common respiratory issues? There are numerous respiratory issues, including conditions like asthma, which may be caused by a genetic predisposition, and even bronchitis, which is typically caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Asthma occurs when the airways become narrow, making it difficult to take a breath. Asthma may be genetic, or it may be triggered by environmental factors like allergens or even cigarette smoke. People who have asthma rely on medications called bronchodilators to open their airways. Bronchitis, on the other hand, is an irritation of the bronchi, which causes you to cough. It’s often the result of a bacterial or viral infection, but it can also be caused by environmental factors.
How do you maintain it? The best way to maintain your respiratory system is to avoid environmental factors that can irritate your airways. Don’t smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products (including electronic cigarettes), wear the proper protection when working with things that produce harsh chemical fumes (like paints and certain household cleaning products), and ensure proper ventilation in your home.
These body systems are vital for good health and wellbeing, so it’s important to make sure you’re protecting yourself and doing all you can to keep them at their peak. For the most part, a healthy lifestyle will lead to healthy body systems. Eat a balanced diet, get some exercise, and stay hydrated. That’s often all it takes to stay healthy.