Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Are some blood vessels more prone to blockages than others?

Ask the doctor

Are some blood vessels more prone to blockages than others?

Q. Are the coronary arteries more prone to developing blockages than arteries elsewhere in the body? When arteries from other parts of the body are used in bypass surgery, does their tendency to become blocked change?

A. The coronary arteries are, in fact, more prone to blockages than many other arteries in the human body. The main reason is that there is to-and-fro blood flow in the coronary arteries, as well as in the legs and the carotid arteries, two other regions prone to blockages. This turbulent blood flow hurts the lining of arteries, much like heavy winds blowing back and forth over time can take a toll on the trees in a forest. Where blood flow resembles a gentle breeze in one direction, as in your arms, blockages are less likely to occur.

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