MadSci Network: Anatomy

Re: if you were to stretch all the body's blood vessels end to end, how many

Date: Sun Jan 10 19:08:17 1999
Posted By: Robert Houska, Faculty, Natural Sciences, Fullerton College
Area of science: Anatomy
ID: 915676216.An


The exact answer to your question is dependent upon which anatomy textbook 
one refers to.  I've seen the estimate range from 50,000 to 100,000 miles. 
Go to: and click on vessels.  
You'll see it stated that there are over 60,000 miles (97,000 kilometers) 
of blood vessels in a child's body and close to 100,000 miles (161,000 
kilometers) in an adult's. 

The circumference of the earth at the equator is 25,000 miles.  If the 
blood vessels of an adult were lined up end to end, they would circle the 
equator four times!  I know this is hard to imagine.

Most of the blood vessels in the human body are microscopic capillaries.  
They are short in length but there are a lot of them.  There are about 40 
billion (40,000,000,000) of them in the body.  To appreciate this, you need 
to understand how big one billion (1,000,000,000) is.  The human heart 
beats about 100,000 times a day.  At this rate it still takes it thirty 
years to beat one billion times.  Another way to look at it is that if you 
made $100,000 a day, working 7 days a week including holidays, it would 
take you thirty years to earn one billion dollars ( go to: , you'll see that Bill Gates earns a lot 
more than this)!  So, even though capillaries are microscopic, there are so 
many of them that they constitute the majority of the body's 100,000 miles 
of vessels.  Remember, vessels include arteries, veins and capillaries.    

Steven, to put my answer in perspective, consider this.  If the DNA from a 
single human cell nucleus were stretched out, it would measure 
approximately six feet in length.  If all of the DNA contained within the 
cells of a human being was stretched out and laid end to end, it would 
reach to the Moon and back eight thousand times. 

Robert Houska
Mad Scientist    

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