Wikijunior:Human Body/Blood Vessels
Blood vessels are tiny tubes inside your body that carry blood around your body.
What do blood vessels look like?
Blood vessels are long thin tubes that run all through the body. Some are larger than others. Most are very small. Some are so small that you can't even see them without a microscope. If you look at your wrist or leg, you can see blue lines just below the skin. These are your blood vessels. They look blue because of the way light goes through your skin and lights up the carbon dioxide rich cells in the blood stream, but the blood plasma remains red.
There are a huge number of blood vessels in your body. If they were all stretched out, there would be over 60,000 miles of blood vessels!
What are the parts of the blood vessels?
Blood vessels are hollow tubes that blood flows through. They have walls made of muscle. The hollow place inside of the blood vessel is called the lumen.
Veins have small flaps of tissue called valves. These keep the blood flowing the right direction.
What is the function of the blood vessels?
The main function of blood vessels is to carry blood through the body. The blood carries oxygen, nutrients, and wastes that need to move around the body. There are three kinds of blood vessels: arteries, veins, and capillaries.
The arteries carry blood away from the heart and transport it to the rest of the body. The blood in arteries carries oxygen and nutrients to different parts of the body.
The veins carry blood the opposite direction, back to the heart from the rest of the body. The blood in veins carry wastes that need to leave the body.
Arteries have a thicker wall and a smaller inside hole than veins. The reason for this is that arteries carry blood that is pumped all over the body. That pumping requires a lot of power from the heart. This pumping causes high pressure, and so the walls of the artery need to be thick and strong.
The third kind of blood vessels is capillaries. They are very tiny. You would need a microscope to see one. They connect the arteries to the veins. They let oxygen and nutrients pass from the blood to body cells. They also let carbon dioxide and other wastes pass from the cells back into the blood. This is possible because the walls of the capillaries are so thin that substances can pass through easily. This happens through a process called diffusion.
How do the blood vessels interact with other parts of the body?
Blood vessels start at the heart and extend out to the rest of the body. The heart is important in pumping the blood through the blood vessels. The stomach and small intestine are where the blood picks up nutrients.
Blood vessels touch almost every part of the body. They carry oxygen and nutrients to every other organ. Without blood vessels, the rest of our body couldn't survive, because there is no part of the body to carry the nutrients.
How can you keep your blood vessels healthy?
An important part of keeping your blood vessels healthy is eating right.
You may have heard of cholesterol. If you eat too much fatty food, like butter, cheese, chips, or crisps, some of this fat naturally builds up around the arteries and veins. This is known as cholesterol. If there is too much cholesterol, it can build up and eventually starts to clog or block your arteries. Here are two pictures showing this:
In the first picture, there is more blood and also less cholesterol. In the second picture, there is less blood in the arteries and more cholesterol. This is because the cholesterol clogs the arteries and reduces the amount of blood which flows in them. Because the arteries carry blood from the heart all over the body, this reduces the amount of blood supplied to your body cells.
This can have dangerous and life-threatening effects. Eventually, it may even cause a heart attack. Reducing the amount of fatty food you eat can reduce cholesterol though. It is especially important to avoid trans-fats, a very unhealthy kind of fat. Eating fruits and vegetables can also help reduce cholesterol. It is also helpful to get exercise. Playing outside, riding a bicycle, or playing your favourite sport are all good activities.