Modeling Clogged Arteries

By Laura Hospitál on Apr 07, 2015

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States with over 1/2 a million deaths annually.
This simple activity models what "clogging" of the arteries means and aims to encourage students to engage in healthy lifestyle choices in order to avoid heart disease.  
Pictures by Ditmar Hospitál


The preparation for this activity only involves gathering the materials, clay, toilet paper rolls, and a hair dryer.


  • Toilet paper tube for each student
  • Clay or playdoh - 1 small container per student
  • Hairdryer

Partially clogged artery is modeled with clay and a toilet paper roll



Students will work with a lab partner for this activity.   Have one student in each group build a model of a partially clogged blood vessel by filling the sides of the toilet paper tube with clay and leaving a hole for "blood: to flow through.   Have the other students in each group completey clog the blood vessel by filling the tube completely Completely open blood vessel modeled with a toilet paper tube   Model the flow of blood through the different blood vessels by blowing air through each.     Students should place a hand over the open end of the tube as the instructor operates the hairdryer and hold the tube in place for each model.  Place the hairdryer (without diffuser) directly against the tube so that all of the air flows through the tube.   Begin with the completely open vessel.  Say "This models the flow of blood through a completely unclogged artery.  We will next compare with a vessel that is partially blocked."   Model the partially clogged vessel.  Discuss - Ask " How does the blood "air" flowing through this vessel differ? Students should  indicate that less blood flows through a partially clogged vessel Completely clogged artery is modeled with clay and a toilet paper roll.   Model the completely clogged vessel.  Ask "How much blood "air" is flowing?"  Students should be able to ascertain that NO blood is flowing through this vessel.     For Discussion after the activity:
  1. Discuss the negative health affects of this situation including less oxygen reaching the heart, brain, and other organs and the possibility of a heart attach or stroke.
  2. Discuss the flow (or lack of flow) of "blood" thorugh the 3 vessels and the increase in blood pressure as the "blood" flows through the partially clogged vessel
  3. Discuss heart disease prevention including 
  4. a. Avoiding smoking
  5. b. Eating less fatty foods which can cause blood vessels to be clogged. 
  6. c. Engaging in regular exercise to strengthen your heart and circulatory system. 
  7. Discuss the importance of annual check-ups with a physician and checking cholesterol regularly.


For more advanced students, an indepth discussion of current thought on why lack of exercise, fatty foods, and smoking causes heart disease would be appropriate.  This could include research by the students and a report.  

NGSS Standards:

Middle School - Structure, Function,and Information Processing
LS1A: In multicellular organisms, the body is a system of multiple interacting subsystems. These subsystems aregroups of cells that work together to form tissues and organs that are specialized for particular body functions (MS-LS1-3)
modeling clogged arteries
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