Nitric Oxide (NO) is the master signaling molecule important for the heart and blood vessels.
• Helps cells get rid of waste products
• Regulates the muscle tone of blood vessels and having a major impact in controlling blood pressure
• Helps increased blood flow to muscles and organs as well as better cardiovascular and enhanced lung functions
• Stops blood platelets from forming clots, which helps prevent arterial blockages and heart attacks
• Transmits messages between nerve cells, a process known as neurotransmission
• Helps slow the accumulation of atherosclerotic plaque in the blood vessels which leads to heart attack and stroke
As a gas, it forms naturally in the endothelial cells that line blood vessels throughout the body. NO production is boosted by exercise and by taking Arginine and Citrulline along with antioxidants such as Vitamin E and Alpha Lipoic Acid. Nitric Oxide may prevent or reverse heart disease.
Nitric Oxide is the natural performance booster that strengthens your heart, lungs, and nerves, along with every cell in your body. It also allows you to prolong your exercise, and prolonged exercise increases NO levels in your body. It’s a virtuous cycle that can lead to improved athletic performance and better health. NO is a short-lived, gaseous molecule that is produced in your cells.
Once released into the bloodstream, it signals the body to perform certain functions such as vasodilation opening up the blood vessels and capillaries to increase blood flow and deliver oxygen and critical nutrients throughout your body at the time it needs them most. Do you ever wonder why people suffering from chest pain are often prescribed and instructed to take nitroglycerine? It’s because the body uses nitroglycerine to produce high levels of NO quickly by opening the coronary arteries and increasing the flow of blood to the heart. For the athlete seeking enhance performance, endurance and strength, as well as faster recovery, the availability of NO in the body is critically important.
As any endurance athlete can tell you, a triathlon or other long-distance event becomes a competition between body parts over demand for the blood supply. The skin wants the blood circulating to dissipate heat, but the muscles are screaming for the oxygen and nutrients that the blood carries. Meanwhile, the stomach needs blood to digest food and make those nutrients available in the first place. It’s not hard to see how ample NO, with its ability to increase circulation, would be critical to athletic performance.
It turns out that NO benefits nearly every cell and system in the body. NO is primarily manufactured in the endothelium, which is the layer of cells lining the interior surface of the blood vessels. The endothelial tissue, which separates the blood from the smooth muscles of the vessel walls, is extremely thin and fragile. It’s easy to see what occurs when such a vast, crucial network gets what it needs to function at its biological peak.
When your endothelium is well nourished, it produces NO at optimal levels. The NO then rapidly spreads through the cell membranes to the underlying muscle cells, causing the arteries to dilate and blood to flow unimpeded to the heart and other organs. Because NO functions on a localized basis, it is released by billions of cells throughout the body, enhancing overall functioning.
The longer NO circulates in the body, the greater benefit it provides to your cells, cardiovascular system, lungs, nervous system, and organs and the more optimal their functionality will be. The more efficiently each of your cells functions, the more you will be able to produce peak speed, strength, and endurance as part of your athletic endeavors. Also, the desirable effects of NO aren’t limited to athletes.
On the contrary, this molecule is quickly becoming regarded as a critical component of a pro-wellness lifestyle for all people, ranging from athletes to the sedentary. Some of the benefits of sufficient levels of NO include: Helping to increase cardiovascular capacity and circulation and enhancing oxygen and nutrient delivery to cells.
Our research strongly suggests that NO’s ability to combat this plaque helps produce healthy levels of cholesterol by working in concert with medications commonly prescribed for people with high cholesterol. NO also help the immune system fight bacterial infections, viruses, and parasites, and even decreases the growth of certain types of cancer. NO is crucial to to memory function, as the brain uses it to help neurons store and retrieve long-term memories and transmit information. As an anti-inflammatory agent, NO is being studied for its potential role in reducing the welling and discomfort of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Nitric oxide is a signaling molecule primarily produced by cells in the endothelium (inner lining) of blood vessels. A signaling molecule fits into docking sites (receptors) on cell walls and triggers biochemical reactions. Nitric oxide helps event heart disease and stroke by…
• Expanding blood vessels. Nitric oxide protects the blood vessels’ smooth muscle tissue from harmful constriction, and this allows blood to circulate with less force. Some doctors report that elevating nitric oxide in hypertensive patients can lower blood pressure by 10 to 60 points.
• Controlling platelet function. Platelets, cell-like structures in blood that can clump up together, may form blood-blocking clots, the main cause of heart attack and stroke. A vascular network that is enhanced by nitric oxide sheds platelets and inhibits dangerous clots.
• Reducing arterial plaque by 50%. Arterial plaque, which consists of fatty deposits in the coronary arteries, is the underlying cause of heart diseases. Nitric oxide is an antioxidant that inhibits the passage of monocytes, a type of immune cell, into the artery wall. This in turn reduces the underlying inflammation that promotes plaque.
• Lowering total cholesterol by 10% to 20%. That’s a modest decrease – but there’s some evidence that nitric oxide is even more effective when combined with the cholesterol lowering statins. Nitric oxide lowers cholesterol through its antioxidant activity. The preliminary research suggests that stimulating nitric oxide production in people who have elevated cholesterol makes it possible to lower their statin doses by at least 50%.
To Boost Nitric Oxide Levels
It is not yet known how much nitric oxide normally is present in the body of what levels are optimal. This gas is difficult to measure because it disappears almost instantly upon exposure to air. Research scientists can measure levels with electrodes inserted in blood vessels. Simpler tests are needed before doctors can measure nitric oxide as part of standard checkups.
Beginning in early adulthood, nitric oxide level gradually decline, probably due to damage to the endothelial cells caused by such factors as a high-fat diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
Nitric oxide can’t be taken in supplement form because it is a gas. However, patients can take other supplements that increase production of nitric oxide in the blood vessels.
• L-arginine, an amino acid found in meats, grains and fish, passes through the intestine into the blood. From the blood, it enters endothelial cells, where it is used to make nitric oxide. A Mayo Clinic study found that people taking L-arginine showed significant improvement in endothelial function and blood flow compared with those taking placebos. It is hard to get sufficient L- arginine from food, so supplements are recommended.
• L-citrulline. Supplemental arginine doesn’t enter cells readily unless it is combined with L- citrulline, another amino acid. Melons and cucumbers are rich sources of L-citrulline, but they don’t provide high enough levels to significantly increase nitric oxide levels.
• Daily multivitamin that includes vitamin E. Vitamin E helps reduce the assault of cell-damaging free radicals on the endothelial lining and may promote higher levels of nitric oxide. The amount of vitamin E that is in most multi-vitamin/mineral supplements is about 50 international units (IU), an effective dose.
• Vitamin C. Like vitamin E, vitamin C will reduce oxidation in the blood vessels and may cause an increase in nitric oxide. People who consume high levels in vitamin C experience a reduction in arterial plaque, which is associated with higher levels of nitric oxide. You can get your vitamin C from food, but I recommend supplements because they are so convenient an easy to take.
Diet and Exercise
In addition to take supplements, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by watching what you eat and being active. Try to…
• Do aerobic exercise for at least 20 minutes three days a week. This simulates endothelial cells to continuously produce nitric oxide, even on days that you don’t exercise.
• Minimize intake of saturated fat. Saturated fat, found in such animal products as red meat, poultry, butter, and whole milk, contributes to the accumulation of arterial plaque and impairs nitric oxide production.
Better: Olive oil, fish and flaxseed. The fats found in these foods help protect the endothelium by elevating levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol and lowering the harmful LDL form.
• Eat More Fiber. The dietary fiber in grains, fruits and vegetables lowers blood pressure and LDL cholesterol and raises HDL, thereby protecting endothelial cells.
Bonus: Many of the foods that contain fiber also are rich in antioxidants, which inhibit the cell damage that lowers nitric oxide. Eat at least 25 grams (g) of fiber daily – and drink at least eight
Connie’s comments: Heart and blood vessels need to be strong. Next time you see melons and cucumbers, eat them as they are cleansing to the body and provide oxygenation too.
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