Veins and the Wonders of the Human Circulatory System
We’ve spent a lot of time on our blog discussing the causes, treatments, and symptoms of venous disease. We’ve gone over tips to alleviate some of the discomfort and how to prevent it, but we have yet to spend a lot of time discussing the wonders of the human circulatory system. Probably most vein doctors were drawn to the practice because —at some point in their studies— they were blown away by the intricacy and brilliance of the human circulatory system.
The body is composed of a number of complex biological systems that perform certain functions and allow our body to work properly. These systems are the digestive, endocrine, immune, lymphatic, nervous, muscular, and circulatory systems. So at any given second, there are multiple gears turning in your body that allow you to be alive and in a functional state.
The veins are part of the circulatory system and are responsible for the flow of blood, nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hormones throughout the body. There are three types of blood vessels inside of us: arteries, veins, and capillaries. Each have a specific task. Arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart, veins carry blood back to the heart, and capillaries connect the two. Some of these vessels can be very small and measure less in width than a human hair. The network of blood vessels of an adult—if laid out into a straight line— would expand close to 100,000 miles. A baby’s would reach about 60,000 miles.
Other Fun Facts About Hearts, Veins, and Self Catheterizations
The Three Layers in Every Vein. They are incredibly complex and within each vein there are three layers. The outer layer is composed of connective tissue. The middle layer—called tunica media—is muscle and fiber. The innermost layer, tunica intima, is the one that comes in direct contact with blood and is made up of smooth cells and has a hollow center.
How Veins Led to the Study of the Heart. Early 20th century medicine believed that the heart was off limits and there was no sensible ways to cure or study the complex ailments of the heart. A German physician named Werner Forssmann was the first person to perform a self catheterization that proved the medical community wrong by showing that the heart could be studied through the veins. This painful experiment set the foundations to the study of cardiology. He threaded a thin tube through his vein, pushed it, and had it go all the way to the heart. As evidence of his discovery, the doctor had his assistant take an X-Ray to show that he had in fact reached the heart through the vein in his inner left elbow. He won the Nobel Prize in 1956 for his contribution.
Strong Veins are Essential to Your Health. Because veins perform the necessary function of carrying blood back to the heart, veins that are weak can begin to cause problems. This is called venous insufficiency. Valves in the veins help guide the blood in the right direction. When these fail, the veins become bulged and become varicose veins. This can cause pain, discomfort, and bigger problems.
The Bigger the Mammal the Slower the Heart. Heart rate is inversely related to body size. The heart of a blue whale is the size of a small car—think compact care—and only beats five times per minute. A human heart, on the other hand, beats about 75 times per minute. A human heart beats about the same amount per minute as a sheep.
You Need Your Heart But Your Heart Doesn’t Need You. Well, this might be a bit of an exaggeration but the truth is that the human heart can beat outside the body for some time. As long as the oxygen receives oxygen it can continue to beat, as it produces its own electrical pulses.
Suffering from Leg Pain? Your Veins Might Be the Cause
Here at Physicians Vascular Services, we specialize in the veins and their role in the circulatory system. We may not think about our veins often but their health and strength is directly tied to our overall health and wellness. Problems with veins can disrupt a person’s daily life. If you think you suffer from varicose veins, give us a call. There is a solution.