Last week we looked at all the roles that nitric oxide (NO) plays in the body. The most important of these relate to cardiovascular health. Healthy blood vessels are smooth and flexible, allowing easy passage of blood. NO produced in the endothelium (inner lining) of these vessels tells the underlying layer of smooth muscle to relax, a process called vasodilation. With insufficient NO the arteries become inflexible, resulting in high blood pressure.
High blood pressure damages the artery walls initiating the formation of plaque. Insufficient NO allows platelets and macrophages (a type of white blood cell) to stick to the artery walls forming plaque, and causes proliferation of the smooth muscle cells of the vessels which contributes to the plaque. Low NO levels also increase chronic inflammation which contributes to cardiovascular disease. Constricted, inflexible vessel walls along with plaque formation restrict blood flow to the heart and the rest of the body. This in turn reduces the amount of NO produced, creating what’s known as a “vicious circle”. By age 40 production of NO is less than half of normal. Returning NO levels to normal will halt this process, possibly reverse the formation of arterial plaque, and restore healthy circulation.
Many recent studies have shown that NO plays a critical role in cardiovascular health. Endothelium dysfunction which results in low production of NO is a strong predictor for heart disease. Nearly every risk factor for heart disease either causes or is associated with low NO production: high blood pressure, high LDL and low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, diabetes, smoking, inactivity, high homocysteine and aging. Vegetarian and Mediterranean diets, known for their lower risk of heart disease, promote the production of NO. Clinical trials of Neo40, a supplement that increases NO levels, resulted in reduced blood pressure, lower triglycerides, reduced anxiety and increased energy.
For more information on NO and Neo-40 see www.neo40.ca and a book called “The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution” by Nathan S Bryan and Janet Zand, 2010. For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.