There is hardly a person alive who hasn’t lost a loved one or a family member to heart disease. The fact is heart attacks kill, and they kill by the millions every year. Almost all adults over the age of forty are concerned about the condition of their heart and cardiovascular system. Great strides have been made in recent years understanding heart disease and what can be done to lower the annual deaths caused by heart disease.
One of the most notable breakthroughs has been the role that nitric oxide has in cellular integrity, blood flow, oxygenation, inflammation, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health. Of all the organs in the body, the heart is the one most often damaged by nutritional deficiencies and is also the most responsive to nutritional therapies. Heart disease is not caused by “drug deficiencies”. While drug intervention may be required in a crisis to stabilize a bad situation, it is not the answer for long-term care or prevention.
The US NIH has directed millions of dollars into nitric oxide studies in recent years because the research on what it can do to ward off heart disease is very impressive. In a book published on their website titled, “Aging Hearts and Arteries, A Scientific Quest”, chapter 4 discussed nitric oxide extensively.
“Healthy endothelial cells produce nitric oxide, an important signaling molecule that helps keep arteries supple. When nitric oxide enters a cell, it stimulates a biochemical process that relaxes and dilates blood vessels. Nitric oxide also helps keep atherosclerosis in check by preventing platelets and white blood cells from sticking to the blood vessel walls. The molecule also can curb the abnormal growth of vascular muscle, which can thicken blood vessel walls.
But unhealthy endothelial cells are a different story. In these cells, nitric oxide regulation is impaired. To make nitric oxide, endothelial cells need L-arginine, an amino acid that is one of the basic building blocks of proteins, and an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase (NOS). Normally, endothelial cells have plenty of L-arginine and NOS. But NOS is often in short supply in aging blood vessels. In addition, people who have heart disease or who are at high risk of developing it produce a modified amino acid called asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA). ADMA blocks the production of nitric oxide from L-arginine. Even if sufficient amounts of nitric oxide are produced, it can be inactivated by oxygen free radicals, unstable molecules that injure vascular tissue. In any case, without adequate levels of biologically available nitric oxide, endothelial cells in the intima can’t function properly. In fact, some researchers consider decreased availability of nitric oxide in the endothelium as one of the earliest signs of arterial aging and a pathological sign of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. However, much of this complex process remains a mystery and scientists continue to explore precisely how nitric oxide production and bioavailability affect blood vessels.
But they do know that endothelial cells depend on nitric oxide to help subdue the production of oxygen free radicals. Nitric oxide molecules can eradicate some of these free radicals, but in the process, they also destroy themselves. This leaves less nitric oxide available to help endothelial cells keep arteries in tiptop shape.
Angiotensin II, a growth factor involved in this process, is more prevalent in aging arteries. In addition to increasing free radical production, angiotensin II decreases nitric oxide production and stimulates blood vessel inflammation. It also can cause vessels to tighten and raise blood pressure, forcing the heart to work harder.
Much of angiotensin II’s damage is done in partnership with an enzyme called NADPH oxidase, the primary source of free radicals in the arteries. After angiotensin II activates it, NADPH oxidase causes an increase in production of superoxide, a free radical. Superoxide binds with nitric oxide to create an even more potent free radical called peroxynitrite. Peroxynitrite then binds to proteins and nitrites, harming them. Like other free radical processes, this chain of events steals bioavailable nitric oxide away from endothelial cells, leaving them more vulnerable to damage. But the impact of angiotensin II isn’t limited to the intima. It also has an important role in age-associated alterations of the media, the middle layer of the arterial wall.
In addition to depleting nitric oxide, free radicals can damage the membranes and DNA of endothelial cells in the intima and smooth muscle cells in the media. Free radical damage is one of many things that can induce some of these cells to stop functioning, shrink, and ultimately die in a process known as apoptosis. Apoptosis may contribute to the decline in cardiovascular health as we age. Free radicals also can oxidize proteins, altering their structure and function. As a result, these proteins can’t work properly, and this can trigger a cascade of cellular alterations that promote stiffening and thickening of arterial walls and contribute to atherosclerotic plaque build up.” [i]
In another US NIH report they noted the following:
“NO plays an active role in the preservation of the structural and functional integrity of the vasculature and myocardium. NO dysregulation and high oxidative stress occur in the presence of atherosclerosis, heart failure and cardiovascular risk factors. Thus targeting NO availability and/or reducing oxidative stress might be expected to improve a broad range of vascular and myocardial outcomes. This would constitute a new strategy for CVD treatment and prevention and, in fact, has already demonstrated efficacy in patients with advanced heart failure.” [ii]
Why do nitric oxide levels decrease? As the body ages, nitric oxide production declines. Studies show that by age 40 the body makes about half or less Nitric Oxide than at age 20. By the age of 40, most men produce only about 50% of the N-O in the body as they did in their teens and twenties Women fare worse. By age 50, their available N-O levels are typically only about 35% of women in their twenties. It takes a conscious and concerted effort to keep N-O levels up. Exercise and foods that are a source of dietary nitrates are more important than ever, but they still may not be enough. N-O supplementation can be a wise choice to help you support cardiovascular health and enjoy more all-around energy.
How To Boost The Body’s Nitric Oxide Levels
Here’s what we do know. Nitric oxide levels are regulated by your diet. We need to consume foods that are rich in dietary nitrates in order to support the body’s nitric oxide levels. There are a number of nitrate rich vegetables to choose from that can be added to your daily diet to help. Here are the top five.
- Arugula Lettuce
- Iceberg Lettuce
Here is another noteworthy study conducted by the US NIH on dietary nitrates. While this study zeroes in on brain health, it also shows how much these nitrates support oxygen flow throughout the body.
Acute effect of a high nitrate diet on brain perfusion in older adults.
Poor blood flow and hypoxia/ischemia contribute to many disease states and may also be a factor in the decline of physical and cognitive function in aging. Nitrite has been discovered to be a vasodilator that is preferentially harnessed in hypoxia. Thus, both infused and inhaled nitrite are being studied as therapeutic agents for a variety of diseases. In addition, nitrite derived from nitrate in the diet has been shown to decrease blood pressure and improve exercise performance. Thus, dietary nitrate may also be important when increased blood flow in hypoxic or ischemic areas is indicated. These conditions could include age-associated dementia and cognitive decline. The goal of this study was to determine if dietary nitrate would increase cerebral blood flow in older adults.
METHODS AND RESULTS:
In this investigation we administered a high vs. low nitrate diet to older adults (74.7±6.9 years) and measured cerebral perfusion using arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging. We found that the high nitrate diet did not alter global cerebral perfusion, but did lead to increased regional cerebral perfusion in frontal lobe white matter, especially between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex.
These results suggest that dietary nitrate may be useful in improving regional brain perfusion in older adults in critical brain areas known to be involved in executive functioning. [iii]
Beets: The #1 Dietary Nitrate Superfood
“In recent years there has been a growing interest in the biological activity of red beetroot (Beta vulgaris rubra) and its potential utility as a health promoting and disease preventing functional food. As a source of nitrate, beetroot ingestion provides a natural means of increasing in vivo nitric oxide (NO) availability and has emerged as a potential strategy to prevent and manage pathologies associated with diminished NO bioavailability, notably hypertension and endothelial function. Beetroot is also being considered as a promising therapeutic treatment in a range of clinical pathologies associated with oxidative stress and inflammation. Its constituents, most notably the betalain pigments, display potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and chemo-preventive activity in vitro and in vivo… The recent interest in beetroot has been primarily driven by the discovery that sources of dietary nitrate may have important implications for managing cardiovascular health. However, beetroot is rich in several other bioactive compounds that may provide health benefits, particularly for disorders characterised by chronic inflammation…. Recent studies have provided compelling evidence that beetroot ingestion offers beneficial physiological effects that may translate to improved clinical outcomes for several pathologies, such as; hypertension, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and dementia. Hypertension in particular, has been the target of many therapeutic interventions and there are numerous studies that show beetroot, delivered acutely as a juice supplement or in bread significantly reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure…. Beetroot’s effect on the vasculature is largely attributed to its high inorganic nitrate content (250 mg∙kg−1 of fresh weight;). Nitrate itself is not considered to mediate any specific physiological function; rather, nitrates beneficial effects are attributed to its in vivo reduction to nitric oxide (NO), a multifarious messenger molecule with important vascular and metabolic functions.” [iv]
Supercharge Your Body’s Nitric Oxide Levels With Beet Red
BEET RED is a new superfood introduced by 7 Lights Nutrition that is the closest and purest alternative there is to fresh made beetroot juice, which is often is quite messy. We use only the finest beetroots available, and with our special low-temperature processing, virtually nothing is lost in the conversion from fresh beets to our instant mixing delicious-tasting powder. BEET RED is obtained from all certified non-GMO beets. BEET RED is the easiest and quickest way for you to increase your nitric oxide levels naturally without the hassles of cutting up beets or juicing them yourself.
In addition to increasing nitric oxide levels, beets are amazing as a pre-workout energizer. The instant increase in blood oxygen levels from beets will help blast your workouts off to a whole new level. If you aren’t an avid athlete it doesn’t matter. Millions of adults suffer with low energy levels and fatigue. Instead of resorting to artificial stimulants to deal with the lows, give beet juice a try. When those mid-afternoon lulls kick in or you are simply out of gas, try beet juice. You’ll be quite surprised at the difference it makes in no time. Beet juice is great for the digestive system as well and helps to alkalize the body and counteract acidity.
Author: Gregory Ciola
Gregory Ciola began his publishing career in the year 2000 when he released a ground breaking book on the dangers of genetic engineering. The book’s title was, “GMOs – Beware of the Coming Food Apocalypse!”. Gregory Ciola was one of the first biotech whistle blowers in the natural food industry to alert the public to what was happening to a majority of our foods. Ciola also began publishing a hard-hitting national newsletter in 2001 called “CRUSADOR” that was renamed in 2015 to “The Investigator’s Report”. He is best known for his in-depth interviews with well known book authors and leading health experts.