Article

Your Vascular System: Veins, Arteries, Capillaries and More

The dynamic, responsive vascular system and its gatekeeper

How your circulation affects every part of your body – and your health.

Your vascular system is made up of arteries, veins and capillaries — tubes of different sizes that carry the blood around your body. It’s easy to picture this like the plumbing in your house: lots of pipes that just sit there letting fluid pass through. But that’s not how it works.

In reality, your vascular system is extremely smart and dynamic. Unlike plumbing, it’s constantly monitoring what’s passing through and making adjustments in response.

That’s because your blood contains all sorts of different things, some helpful and some potentially harmful. On the positive side, your blood carries nutrients from your food and oxygen from your lungs to every cell in the body. On the negative side, your blood may contain too much cholesterol, particularly LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Your doctor likely does regular blood work to evaluate this.

The Intelligent Gatekeeper

With all this going on in the blood, it’s extremely important that the right materials — nutrients and oxygen — pass from your bloodstream into your organs and tissues, while the wrong materials are kept out.

To make sure this happens, every blood vessel has an inner lining called the endothelial glycocalyx, abbreviated: EGX. The EGX is like an intelligent gatekeeper. In the first place, it has a slippery-smooth surface. This keeps inflammatory particles, lipids, immune cells, and other components of the blood where they should be: in the vessel. At the same time, the EGX is semi-porous. It opens wide enough to let nutrients and oxygen pass through, but not enough to allow LDL and other harmful elements.

Ask your doctor about the best ways to take care of the inner lining of your blood vessels, and your overall vascular health.