Blood Vessels

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Arteries: Arteries Carry Away

The heart pumps blood out through one main artery called the dorsal aorta. The main artery then divides and branches out into many smaller arteries so that each region of your body has its own system of arteries supplying it with fresh, oxygen-rich blood.

This is a contrast x-ray of the kidneys and the mighty aorta.

CLICK to enlarge: This is a contrast x-ray of the kidneys and the mighty aorta.

Arteries are tough on the outside and smooth on the inside. An artery actually has three layers: an outer layer of tissue, a muscular middle, and an inner layer of epithelial cells. The muscle in the middle is elastic and very strong. The inner layer is very smooth so that the blood can flow easily with no obstacles in its path.

The muscular wall of the artery helps the heart pump the blood. When the heart beats, the artery expands as it fills with blood. When the heart relaxes, the artery contracts, exerting a force that is strong enough to push the blood along. This rhythm between the heart and the artery results in an efficient circulation system.

You can actually feel your artery expand and contract. Since the artery keeps pace with the heart, we can measure heart rate by counting the contractions of the artery. That's how we take our pulse.

The arteries deliver the oxygen-rich blood to the capillaries where the actual exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs. The capillaries then deliver the waste-rich blood to the veins for transport back to the lungs and heart.

What's This?

You are viewing a page in The Franklin Institute's online exploration of the human heart. It is one of many Resources for Science Learning which inspire scientific curiosity.

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