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Nitric Oxide: A Hero of the Human Heart

March 30, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 128

Twenty minutes on a treadmill will go a long way to maintaining a good fitness level. As late as 2005 however, new research suggested that exercise may also help increase the production of nitric oxide, a substance that has a variety of important roles in the body, perhaps none more valuable than to help prevent heart disease.

In an article that appeared in "Psychology Today" Dr. Jason Allen of Duke University is quoted as saying: "NO does a variety of jobs. It tends to be antiatherogenic, which means that its job is to prevent your arteries from becoming clogged. From start to finish, this is a 40-year process which depends on lifestyle." That is the production of NO is a function of what you eat, how you exercise, and the stresses you are under in your day to day life.

Allen and his colleagues at the University studied the production of nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme that is responsible for producing nitric oxide. They found that exercise increases production of the enzyme, which then increases the chances that the nitric oxide levels in the blood will increase and protect the artery lining. It was found, in the same study, that exercise especially helped those people who were labeled "at-risk" for heart disease.

Here's how it works: Doing cardiovascular exercise helps boost the nitric oxide levels in the lining of artery walls. One of the initial effects of arteriosclerosis is damage to that lining, which exposes the vessels to harmful circulating cells. NO released by the lining helps prevent red blood cells from sticking together, and attaching to the blood vessel wall. NO also improves vascular tone, allowing the arteries to relax and stay clear.

It has been discovered that the innermost layer of cells in the artery wall releases NO when triggered by the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (which in turn is triggered by cardiovascular exercise). NO then transmits a signal to the smooth-muscle cells of artery walls prompting them to dilate (relax). This relaxing of the arteries immediately eases blood pressure while increasing the blood flow in the arteries. Extra time at the gym increases the level of NO in the bloodstream even more.

Other nitric oxide-based products have made their way onto the market. Some are dietary supplements, such as Niteworks, a citrus-flavored powder developed by Herbalife and Ignarro. "We've done a lot of work to show that one does not have to take prescription drugs to be effective in treating cardiovascular disease," says Ignarro, one of the scientists on the original team at Duke. One can just engage in natural sorts of things -- dietary supplements, exercise, diets that are low in fat, and so on. All of these things increase or enhance nitric acid production in the body; and the more nitric oxide that is produced, the more protection you have against cardiovascular disease."

Researchers continue to study the possible uses of NO and it's contribution to the prevention of heart disease. In the meantime, scientists recommend that we aid our body's production of NO through: a low-fat diet, mild to moderate exercise, smoking cessation and better "cellular nutrition."

For more information

Source: EzineArticles
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Nitric Oxide


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