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Major Blood Vessels That Carry Blood Away From the Heart

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  • 0:06 Major Blood Vessels
  • 1:03 Aorta
  • 2:36 Coronary Arteries
  • 3:29 Aortic Arch
  • 3:56 Baroreceptors
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Do you know which arteries are typically blocked during a heart attack? In this lesson, you will learn about the major blood vessels that feed the heart, brain and upper body. Then, find out what causes the pain known as angina.

Major Blood Vessels

Like a system of roads, your circulatory system has its own large highways and smaller back roads. In this lesson, you will learn about the largest highway, or artery, in your body. Where this artery leaves your heart, it is, in fact, very large; it's about the size of a garden hose. It first rises upward from the left ventricle of your heart before making a U-turn and plunging downward, running deep inside your body and following close to your spinal column. Early in this large vessel's journey, it sends off branches that feed important organs and structures such as your heart, brain, head, neck and arms.

Before we formally introduce this major blood vessel leaving the heart, let's visit Mr. Smith's very busy widget factory. At the factory loading docks, we see Mr. Smith's truck drivers have loaded their trucks and are ready to deliver brand-new widgets to all of the stores around the country.

Aorta

Diagram of the aorta and ventricles of the heart
Aorta Ventricle Diagram

To do this in an efficient way, his drivers head out on the largest highway: Highway A. Your circulatory system also has a major highway, and it is called your aorta. This is the largest artery and carries blood from the heart to the body. Your body has miles and miles of arteries, and, as you can imagine, blood must come out of the heart under very high pressure. Blood is forced into the aorta from the left ventricle of your heart, and, because so much force is needed to propel blood all the way around your body, we notice that the left ventricle has a more muscular wall than the right ventricle, which has the comparatively smaller job of pumping blood the short distance to the nearby lungs. We already learned that the aorta is about the size of a garden hose, and this large size helps distribute some of the pressure. The aorta also contains many elastic fibers that allow it to expand when blood first enters and then relax as the blood moves along. This ability to stretch and relax makes the flow of blood smoother as it travels through your circulatory system.

Your aorta is one long, continuous tube with many branches that come off of the vessel like back roads would come off of a highway. As it courses through your body, your aorta is assigned different names along its path. The ascending aorta is the first section of the aorta and contains blood from the left ventricle of the heart.

Coronary Arteries

Blockages in the coronary arteries cause heart attacks
Coronary Artery Plaque

We don't have to travel far along the ascending aorta before reaching the first branching roads, and these are called your right and left coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. You can imagine that the heart muscle is one of the most important muscles in your body, and therefore, your circulatory system wastes no time supplying it with richly oxygenated blood straight off of the aorta. An interesting fact about the coronary arteries is that they are relatively narrow, and these are the arteries that can become hardened and clogged due to buildup of plaque on their inner walls. If the blood flow through the coronary arteries is blocked, it can cause pain, and we call that angina. Or, if they're blocked more completely, it can result in a heart attack.

Aortic Arch

As we continue to follow the aorta away from the heart, we see that it resembles an upside-down 'U.' This section is called the aortic arch, and it's the curved section of the aorta with branches that supply the brain, head, neck and arms. A good way to think of the aortic arch is to think of it as the origin for most of the blood supply that supplies everything from your arms up to the top of your head.

The curved portion of the aorta supplies blood to the upper body
Aortic Arch Diagram

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