What is Coronary Circulation?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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It’s easy to think of the heart as the organ that supplies blood to all the other organs. It helps to circulate blood around the body so that all tissues in the body receive oxygenated blood. While the heart does this work, it’s equally easy to forget the heart's muscle tissue needs blood to thrive and function too. Fortunately, the body has a solution to this: coronary circulation. In essence, this describes the function of coronary arteries and veins in keeping the heart muscle strong and healthy through oxygen exposure and blood distribution.

A simple explanation of coronary circulation is hard to find. Essentially, most people have two coronary arteries, which are responsible for oxygenating all tissues of the heart. These supply the surface, muscle and walls of the heart structure, and may have areas where they branch off or are thinner or larger depending on the structure supplied. Both tend to arise from the aorta or the valve that comes right off the heart and sends oxygen rich blood to the body, and they are usually separated into left and right coronary arteries.


Each artery (and in some cases, people have a third one) is responsible for delivering oxygen to some part of the heart. The heart also must have some mechanism to rid itself of blood that is now low in oxygen after supplying the tissues. This is done via coronary veins that carry the blood away, straight back to the heart. It will then be pumped to the lungs for re-oxygenation before again becoming part of coronary circulation.

Another way of thinking about coronary circulation is that oxygenated blood completes a circle within the heart and just right outside the heart. After blood reaches the aorta, a coronary artery picks some of it up and redistributes it into the heart tissues. A coronary vein than catches and dumps the blood straight back into the right side of the heart for a quick trip to the lungs.

No matter what way it’s described scientifically, people should not underestimate the importance of coronary circulation. Lack of oxygen to tissue results in tissue death, and when tissues in the heart begin to die, all types of heart function can become significantly impaired. Narrowed or blocked coronary arteries can create a constant source of heart damage and death of heart muscle or tissues, and they need repair immediately so the whole body functions better. It is thus vital to maintain coronary circulation of the highest function possible to maintain integrity in the organ that supplies the whole body with oxygenated blood.


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Post 4

This is such an excellent piece on coronary circulation. I am studying anatomy and physiology. Now I understand what coronary circulation actually means! Thank you!

Post 3

The best form of exercise for the heart is running. I learned many years ago that a long distance runner's heart beats at a rate of nearly 20 beats fewer than an average non-runner. Imagine if that was paired with a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and other factors of healthy living- if you do not overdo it, it can really help your coronary blood circulation and overall health.

Post 2

One of the best ways to improve your coronary circulation is to exercise. If you are just beginning, you should certainly take it slowly, but even moderate regular exercise can help your heart to function at its best, and to keep blood pressure down as well.

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