Merck Manual

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Blood Vessels: Circulating the Blood
Blood Vessels: Circulating the Blood

    Blood travels from the heart in arteries, which branch into smaller and smaller vessels, eventually becoming arterioles. Arterioles connect with even smaller blood vessels called capillaries. Through the thin walls of the capillaries, oxygen and nutrients pass from blood into tissues, and waste products pass from tissues into blood. From the capillaries, blood passes into venules, then into veins to return to the heart.

    Arteries and arterioles have relatively thick muscular walls because blood pressure in them is high and because they must adjust their diameter to maintain blood pressure and to control blood flow. Veins and venules have much thinner, less muscular walls than arteries and arterioles, largely because the pressure in veins and venules is much lower. Veins may dilate to accommodate increased blood volume.