Arteries are strong tubes, or blood vessels, that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. When you think of arteries, you might think of some of the most often mentioned ones:
- The aorta, the main artery coming out of the heart
- Coronary arteries in the heart
- The carotid artery in the neck
However, there are more than 20 arteries throughout the body, which then branch out into many smaller tubes. This extensive network carries blood to all parts of the body.
Each artery is made up of three layers:
- A smooth layer on the inside,
- A thick layer of muscle in the middle, and
- A rough layer on the outside.
Cycle of Oxygen Delivery
Arteries transport blood containing oxygen and nutrients to smaller tubes called arterioles, which then deliver blood to even smaller vessels called capillaries. Capillaries are tiny, thin blood vessels that allow oxygen and nutrients to flow to nearby tissue. The tissue extracts the nutrients and oxygen from the blood.
After the oxygen and nutrients have been delivered to the body’s tissues by the capillaries, another network in the body, made up of venules and veins, carries this oxygen-depleted blood and waste products back to the heart.
The arteries throughout the body support many systems and are critical to your cardiovascular health and many other functions of your blood, including nutrient delivery.
Your arteries are strong and flexible, but they can become less effective over time. A substance called plaque can build up in the arteries, restricting blood flow and ultimately stopping or blocking it altogether. This plaque is a serious cardiovascular disease and causes heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease and kidney (renal) artery disease.
Making healthy lifestyle decisions and seeking out timely medical care can help prevent, manage and even correct diseases of the arteries.