Nitric oxide has been touted as a ‘miracle molecule’ for its role in improving blood circulation. Know how does it lower blood pressure, in this article.
Nitric oxide is naturally produced in the body by the cells present in the inner lining of blood vessels. While the role of nitric acid in preventing and treating erectile dysfunction is known, a recent research by Dr. Louis J. Ignarro has revealed how nitric oxide can be used for lowering blood pressure and thus reduce the risk of heart attacks. Incidentally, this research has won him a Nobel prize.
How Does Nitric Oxide Lower Blood Pressure?
Nitric oxide works at various levels in the cardiovascular system to facilitate easy blood circulation. The general mechanism is to dilate blood vessels, so that heart has to pump blood with less force. This improves overall blood circulation. Given below are some ways in which nitric oxide lowers blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension.
Dilating Blood Vessels
The inside of the blood vessels is made up of smooth muscle. This is exactly where nitric oxide is also present. It triggers a biochemical reaction which prevents the constriction of these muscles. This causes the blood vessels to expand or open up. As a result of vaso-dilation, your heart does not have to exert itself too much to pump the blood with greater force.
Preventing Blood Clots
Blood clots are essentially platelets that clump up together. These clots stick to the walls of blood vessels, thereby narrowing or sometimes completely blocking them. Clotting of arteries and blood vessels is the primary cause of stroke and hypertension. Nitric oxide prevents platelets from sticking to each other and forming clumps.
Plaque is a fatty deposition present on the walls of arteries. Plaque formation inside coronary artery contributes to heart diseases. Plaque is mostly formed due to inflammation, which is mostly an immune response. Nitric oxide prevents the passage of monocyte (an immune cell) inside the blood vessels. Nitric oxide can prevent plaque formation by a whopping 50%.
Reducing Cholesterol Levels
It is a well established fact that cholesterol deposition is the main culprit of heart diseases. Nitric oxide lowers cholesterol deposition by 10 – 20%. However, it works best when you combine it with a dose of statin. Eventually, you will have to reduce the dose of statin to half.
Nitric oxide is an antioxidant, hence keeps the condition of blood vessels in good condition. Nitric oxide therapy can bring down blood pressure by 10 to 60 points in hypertension patients.
How to Increase Nitric Oxide Production in the Body?
As nitric oxide is produced by the body itself, there is no effective way of supplementing it externally. Besides, there is no way of knowing how much of it is required to keep a healthy cardiovascular system. It is impossible to measure the gas in the arteries as it vanishes as soon as it is exposed to air. However, a study has also established a link between consumption of L-arginine and production of nitric oxide. Arginine is a type of amino-acid, which is party produced by the body.
An enzyme named nitric oxide synthase converts L-arginine to nitric oxide. L-arginine is present in foods such as meat, fish and grains. Hence, consuming arginine rich foods certainly improves your cardiovascular function. However, the same effect cannot be seen when L-arginine supplements are taken. The enzyme probably works best when the source of L-arginine is dietary.
It has also been observed that exercises have same effect on the cardiovascular function as nitric oxide. Hence, you can exercise daily in addition to taking L-arginine rich diet, for improved cardiac function.