The human body is surely a marvel. It is built with various body functions and organs that work simultaneously to help humans strive and thrive. This helps humans to survive in almost any conditions and the ability to live in a social setting. Although the human body is a marvel, taking care of the body by getting regular health screening can help preserve the body function and improve overall daily life. In this article, we will be talking about arteries and its two functions.
Arteries are part of the human blood circulatory system. You will be amazed to know how extensive a blood circulation can be. It is estimated that the length of the blood circulatory system comprising the blood vessels including vein and artery is 40 000 kilometres. Can you imagine that length existed in human bodies? Fascinating indeed!
Back to the main focus of arteries, what exactly is an artery? Artery is a tube-like vessel that plays a role in the blood circulatory system or cardiovascular system. There are two types of arteries: elastic and muscular. The elastic arteries, as the name suggests, have more elastic tissue than muscular tissue and it’s closer to the heart such as the aorta and the pulmonary artery. On the contrary, the muscular arteries have more smooth muscle compared to the elastic arteries such as the brachial arteries. Arteries branch from large arteries to smaller ones and this repeated smaller arteries branch to become microscopic arteries known as the arterioles.
Do you know how arteries get their name? The word comes from the Greek, arteria which means a windpipe. It is said that in ancient times, the artery is known as the air ducts because it does not contain blood after death. The wall of the artery consists of three layers. The innermost layer of the tunica intima/tunica interna is a layer of skin cells surrounded by connective tissue with elastic fibres. The middle layer of tunica media is the thickest layer consisting of smooth muscle. The outermost layer of tunica adventitia is a layer of connective tissue with elastic and fibres of different amounts.
Now that you know more about artery structure and its origin, you may wonder what is the function of arteries. There are two main functions of the arteries:
1) Carry oxygenated blood, blood that is rich with oxygen and nutrients, away from the heart. These arteries transport oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to the body tissues. The heart pumps blood rich with oxygen to the biggest artery called the aorta. It then branches off to flow through smaller arteries and ultimately reach all parts of the body.
2) Carry deoxygenated blood, blood that is low of oxygen. This function is specific for the pulmonary arteries. The pulmonary arteries transport blood from the right ventricle of the heart to the left and right lungs. In the lung, the blood gains fresh oxygen from the respiratory system and eliminates waste products such as carbon dioxide before returning to the heart.
You may get confused about the function of the artery as most people will say it is bringing oxygenated blood and they are not wrong as most arteries do bring oxygenated blood. However, as mentioned, the pulmonary artery carries deoxygenated blood. Of course, if you are still unsure, you can always ask a healthcare professional for more insight.
It is important to take care of the artery as problems could arise when the artery is affected. Common conditions that can harm arteries are blood clot, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These conditions could lead to diabolical medical conditions like aneurysm, atherosclerosis and heart diseases, specifically coronary artery disease and carotid artery disease. Ways to take care of the artery include leading an active lifestyle and practising healthy eating habits.