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Understanding cardiovascular diseases

This module provides an introductory overview of the diseases of the heart and circulation, and the anatomy and physiology of the cardiovascular system. You’ll study risk factors and patterns and methods of prevention of these diseases in a global context. The module text, case studies, and multimedia illustrate the characteristic symptoms and pathology of peripheral vascular and coronary heart disease; their diagnosis using a variety of techniques; and subsequent medical, surgical and lifestyle management. The module will appeal to patients, health care workers, people working in professions allied to medicine, and those with a general interest in the subject.

Standalone study only

This module is available for standalone study only. The credits from this module cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.


Module code
Study level
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

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I really enjoyed studying this module. Although not impossible to answer, some of the iCMA questions were frustratingly vague upon...
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Enjoyed the module although have failed but will submit another exam. Learned so much from a patients view....
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What you will study

The module will:

  • introduce the different major types of cardiovascular disease and underlying risk factors
  • describe the cardiovascular system and how it functions normally
  • outline the patterns of cardiovascular disease, and the ways in which genetic factors combine with environmental and lifestyle factors to affect risk in different groups of people
  • describe how cardiovascular disease can be prevented, both in individuals and whole populations
  • outline the pathological processes that occur in vascular disease and show how understanding these processes can lead to effective treatment
  • describe what occurs during a heart attack and in the recovery period
  • examine the types of investigations that can be carried out to assess the damage that has been caused by a heart attack and any underlying cardiovascular disease
  • look at the options for medical management of different types of cardiovascular disease, and relate these options to the diagnostic investigations and the pathology
  • describe the types of surgical intervention that may be performed for different conditions
  • outline how patients can be rehabilitated following a heart attack, and adapt their lifestyle to slow further disease progression and reduce the likelihood of subsequent attacks.

The module integrates multimedia and text to show how the heart functions in normal conditions and what can occur when things go wrong. Relevant video sequences on DVD are used to show what happens during, for example, cardiac emergencies, and how medical teams diagnose and manage heart attacks. Case studies of different people are incorporated throughout the text, in order to convey the experience of the individual patient. These clinical case studies are used to link the medical aspects of patient care to the underlying science.

Outside the UK

The module  focuses on the person with cardiovascular disease in the context of the UK National Health Service and includes, where necessary, references to the treatment plans and diagnostic tests used in the UK. Although the provision of services for cardiovascular treatment and education is likely to differ outside the UK, the module makes references to global issues and ethnic and class differences in the incidence of disease.

Teaching and assessment


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

The interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) are at roughly three week intervals throughout the module. The end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted online. There will also be some formative exercises to enable you to practice similar questions and monitor your progress throughout the module.

You can email a study adviser, who will be able to help you with academic questions to do with the module and the assessment. There are also online discussion forums that you can use to get in touch with study advisers and other students.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in September 2014 when it will be available for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

5 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school


Please note: this module is only available for standalone study. You cannot count the credits you gain from the module towards any current OU qualification. It may be possible, however, to count the credits gained towards a qualification if you are already studying with us and have declared your qualification intention before September 2012 – see your qualification description in StudentHome for details.

You are not expected to have any knowledge of cardiovascular diseases, but you should be able to read and understand written English of a style and complexity characteristic of a professional magazine or quality newspaper. If you have not studied up to GCSE level fairly recently, you should expect to spend longer on the study materials.

It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle the module, since students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you to progress to modules at OU level 2.

The package Are you ready for science study? offers an interactive quiz to help you decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the course or whether you should consider first studying an Openings course.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

If you do not already have the necessary computing and internet skills, we recommend you study sections three and four of the SAFARI materials, provided by the OU Library, before you begin your study of SK121. As an alternative you may wish to take one of the many courses available at your local night school or college.

If you particularly wish to improve your study skills you’re strongly advised to read The Sciences Good Study Guide (1997) by A. Northedge, J. Thomas, A. Lane and A. Peasgood, ISBN: 9780749234119 which can be purchased from Further advice is available from the Learning with the OU website.


Start End England fee Register
20 Sep 2014 See description -

Registration now closed

The deadline for financial support applications has now passed

September 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser.

Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is based upon current details for  year 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015.
This information was provided on 15/09/2014.

What's included

A module book and other printed materials, a DVD-ROM, a website and online forum facilities.

You will need

You will need a simple calculator.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some module software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2008 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile device is not suitable for this module – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this module by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

If you have severely impaired sight or manual dexterity you may find using the web and the multimedia resources challenging. All electronic or multimedia aspects of the study materials are accessible, allowing navigation through the use of keyboard and short cut keys. The printed study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) as screen readable eBooks. Some components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.