Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of people worldwide. Unfortunately, it’s even worse for the African American community. There are several reasons for this and hopefully this article will help begin the process of changing this sad reality. To address these reasons I’ve broken this article into three parts: The Bad News, Several Underlining Causes, and Steps to Decrease Your Risk!
The Bad News!
It’s important for you to understand the depth of cardiovascular disease confronting the African American community. Below is a brief summary of the ailments that directly affect African Americans:
- Diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has grown to epidemic proportions in the United States. People with diabetes have a greater risk for stroke, heart disease and circulatory issues. Most diabetes-related deaths are due to cardiovascular disease. Twice as many African Americans will develop diabetes when compared to the Caucasian community.
- Erectile Dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction affects 50% of the male population over the age 40 and is even greater in the African American community.
- Heart Disease. African American women in the age range of 25-44 have a 2.5 times greater risk of coronary heart disease and African American men have a 1.5 times greater risk than the Caucasian community.
- High Blood Pressure. The number one risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure, and 1 out of every 3 African Americans suffers from this ailment. The American Heart Association estimates that 28% of African American adults and more than 66% of African Americans over the age of 60 have high blood pressure.
- High Cholesterol Levels. High blood cholesterol is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Unfortunately 50% of African American men and 54% of women have too much cholesterol circulating in their blood stream.
- Sickle Cell Anemia. It’s estimated that one in 12 African Americans has sickle cell trait and one out of every 400 births have sickle cell anemia.
- Stroke. African Americans are twice as likely to die from a stroke as Caucasians. The rate of having their first stroke is almost doubled that of Caucasians. One half of all African American women will die from either a stroke or heart disease. For those with sickle cell anemia, 11% will have experienced a stroke by the age of 20.
That’s quite a list of ailments affecting African Americans. If you look closely at all seven health issues you will see that the common denominator is your cardiovascular system.
The key for reducing your health risk for these cardiovascular diseases is to make sure your cardiovascular system is as healthy as possible. This article will provide several steps to address this but before we do you need to understand some of the underlining causes of why cardiovascular disease is so prevalent in the African American community.
Several Underlining Causes!
Within your cardiovascular system there is one particular essential amino acid, one critical signaling molecule, one critical cellular structure and one detrimental enzyme that directly impact its overall health. They are:
- L-arginine – Key Essential Amino Acid
- Nitric Oxide – Key Signaling Molecule
- Endothelial Cells – Key Cellular Structure
- Arginase – Key Detrimental Enzyme
The first three keys of L-arginine, nitric oxide and endothelial cells are interrelated so we will examine them as a whole. The endothelial cells form the interior lining of all your blood vessels. These cells ultimately determine your cardiovascular health. One function of these endothelial cells is to take the essential amino acid L-arginine and convert it into the signaling molecule nitric oxide. Very simply, you couldn’t live without nitric oxide!
Nitric oxide is the master signaling molecule of the cardiovascular system. It regulates blood vessel tone and flexibility. Its production is completely dependent upon the health of your endothelial cells and an adequate supply of the essential amino acid L-arginine. Here are some of the benefits of nitric oxide:
- Nitric oxide regulates the muscle tone of blood vessels to have a major impact on controlling blood pressure. This directly relates to high blood pressure.
- Nitric oxide causes penile erections by dilating blood vessels. This directly relates to erectile dysfunction.
- Nitric oxide prevents blood platelet cells from grouping together in a clot. This minimizes blockages in the blood vessels to reduce the risk for heart attacks, strokes and complications from sickle cell anemia.
- Nitric oxide promotes vascular reparative mechanisms and is one of the keys to reversing atherosclerosis. This helps to reduce the damage caused by high cholesterol levels and assists in preventing the vascular complications of diabetes.
Nitric oxide is literally involved in all cells to help keep you fit and healthy. It’s important to understand that this interrelationship between the endothelial cells, L-arginine and nitric oxide production is common for all races.
What is not common is a genetic polymorphism inherent to the African American population. This genetic polymorphism causes African Americans to have higher levels of an enzyme called arginase in their blood stream. Arginase destroys L-arginine which is the main ingredient for creating nitric oxide in the body.
For the African American community, nitric oxide production is compromised on both sides of the equation!
On the front end, the enzyme arginase destroys L-arginine which interferes with the production of nitric oxide. On the back end, the health of your endothelial cells determines how much of the remaining L-arginine can be converted to nitric oxide. Unfortunately, your endothelial cells are damaged by high blood pressure, high sugar levels, high cholesterol, smoking, and oxidative stress. This damage reduces the production of nitric oxide which compounds the problem and increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Steps to Decrease Your Risk!
Given the above information there are several important steps to decreasing your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Step 1 – Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure damages your endothelial cells. If you do not know what your blood pressure is then you need to go to your doctor’s office, local pharmacy or health clinic and get your blood pressure taken. If you have high blood pressure, then you need to take steps to bring it back into a normal range. This is your first and most important step. It’s so important that the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program was established to exclusively address the issue of high blood pressure on a national level. For more information on participating barbershops, go to http://www.blackbarbershop.org/ .
Step 2 – Monitor your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. High sugar and cholesterol levels damage your endothelial cells. Diet is extremely important for both of these areas. One simple but highly effective step to stabilize your blood sugar levels and help your body naturally reduce its cholesterol levels is to increase your fiber intake. Including dry beans or legumes into your diet is a quick and delicious way to increase your fiber intake. In fact studies have shown that consuming dry beans four times or more per week, compared with less than once a week, lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 22 percent.
Step 3 – Stop smoking! Smoking damages your endothelial cells. This is a nasty habit that is extremely hard to break. Part of the process is having a motivation greater than the habit.
If your very life isn’t motivation enough, then maybe for the men your sex life is!
Your endothelial cells control your nitric oxide production. Your nitric oxide levels control an erection. No nitric oxide no sex! Every puff on your cigarette is destroying your endothelial cells which lowers your nitric oxide level and reduces your chances of having good sex.
Step 4 – Increase L-arginine intake! In addition to protecting your endothelial cells, you need to get an adequate intake of the essential amino acid L-arginine which is found in foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, and other protein sources. Most people take in enough L-arginine to meet basic bodily needs. However, when your diet is poor and/or your stress level is high, then this essential amino acid will be lacking. Couple this with the enzyme arginase that destroys L-arginine and the potential risk for cardiovascular disease is increased.
Step 5 – Use L-citrulline to bypass Arginase! Your body will convert the amino acid L-citrulline into L-arginine to help maintain its production of nitric oxide. This process also helps to bypass the arginase enzyme since it has no effect on L-citrulline. Having a good supply of L-citrulline provides the body with a 24 to 36 hour window in the production of nitric oxide. This is important for all population groups but it’s critically important for African Americans especially those with sickle cell anemia. Unfortunately, L-citrulline is not prevalent in most foods we eat. Thus, supplementation is usually required.
Step 6 – Consider ProArgi-9 Plus! There is a clinically proven nutritional supplement called ProArgi-9 Plus which has the ability to bring in the proper balance of L-arginine and L-citrulline. This product also combines other heart healthy ingredients to significantly improve the health of the endothelial cells and their ability to properly produce nitric oxide. The most recent validation for this product is the remarkable results obtain for 33 congestive heart failure patients in the High Desert Heart Institute study.
You have the power to directly improve the health of your endothelial cells to significantly reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. And, for those with sickle cell anemia, you can help to reduce your symptoms. It all centers on helping your endothelial cells function optimally, with an above average supply of L-arginine, and a way to bypass the arginase enzyme so that nitric oxide is properly produced. Improved production of nitric oxide is critical to helping African Americans decrease their risk for cardiovascular disease!
Together we can work to save a million lives!