Nitric Oxide and Cardiovascular Health!

If you want to improve your overall health, and the health of your loved ones, then you need to understand the relationship between nitric oxide and cardiovascular health.  It’s absolutely critical because you could not live without nitric oxide – the master signaling molecule of your entire cardiovascular system.
You’ve most likely never been counseled by your physician about the importance of nitric oxide and cardiovascular health.  Yet there is an overwhelming amount of research that validates the tremendous role nitric oxide plays in your body.  Here is just a sample of several prominent physicians and researchers with their comments about nitric oxide and cardiovascular health:

Dr. John Cooke – Director of Vascular Medicine at Stanford University and author of the book, The Cardiovascular Cure:

This book will introduce you to the magic that is inside your blood vessels.  It comes in the shape of a molecule, one of the simplest molecules found in nature. This molecule is nitric oxide, or NO, a substance so powerful that it can actually protect you from heart attack and stroke. Best of all, your body can make it on its own.  NO is your body’s own built-in, natural protection against heart disease.”

Dr. Louis J. Ignarro – 1998 Nobel Laureate in Medicine and author of the book, NO More Heart Disease:

Though NO’s structure is simple, nitric oxide is now regarded as the most significant molecule in the body, absolutely crucial to your well-being. I am convinced that nitric oxide can age-proof your cardiovascular system, keeping it much fitter than your chronological age would indicate.”

Repairing the damage wrought by cardiovascular disease without risky and often ineffective surgery had long been considered impossible.  I was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for making that thinking obsolete. Now we know we can reverse cardiovascular impairment naturally – with the body’s internally manufactured ‘wonder drug,’ nitric oxide.”

Dr. Jonathan S. Stamler – Professor of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center:

It does everything, everywhere. You cannot name a major cellular response or physiological effect in which [nitric oxide] is not implicated today. It’s involved in complex behavioral changes in the brain, airway relaxation, beating of the heart, dilation of blood vessels, regulation of intestinal movement, function of blood cells, the immune system, even how fingers and arms move.”

Three of the most prominent doctors in America all talking about the importance of nitric oxide and cardiovascular health.  How this amazing molecule plays such a significant role in your overall health.  The production of nitric oxide is a vital function of your endothelium, which lines all of your cardiovascular system.  In fact, the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to three American researchers who discovered how the endothelial cells produce nitric oxide from the amino acid L-Arginine.  Since its discovery much has been learned about nitric oxide.  For example:

  • Nitric oxide regulates the muscle tone of blood vessels to have a major impact on controlling blood pressure.
  • Nitric oxide stops blood platelet cells from grouping together in a clot to help prevent blockages in the blood vessels.
  • Nitric oxide controls the action of almost every orifice from swallowing to defecation.
  • Nitric oxide helps the immune system fight viral, bacterial and parasitic infections as well as tumors.
  • Nitric oxide causes penile erections by dilating blood vessels to help in erectile dysfunction.
  • Nitric oxide transmits messages between nerve cells.
  • Nitric oxide seems to be associated with the process of learning, memory, sleeping, feeling pain, and maybe even depression.
  • Nitric oxide has been shown to be a mediator in inflammation and rheumatism.
  • Nitric oxide promotes vascular reparative mechanisms when injury occurs.  It is one of the keys to reversing atherosclerosis.

To help you understand the significance of nitric oxide and cardiovascular health, let’s focus on two key cardiovascular issues.

Nitric Oxide and Cardiovascular Health – High Blood Pressure!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31.3 percent of the U.S. adult population has high blood pressure.  That represents almost one out of every three adults.  Add to this fact that another 25 percent of American adults have prehypertension – blood pressure numbers that are higher than normal, but not yet in the high blood pressure range – and you have over half the American adult population affected by this cardiovascular disease.

This represents a staggering cost in human life and a significant financial drain.  In 2006, high blood pressure was listed as the primary or contributing cause of death for 326,000 Americans.  The estimated cost in 2010 for health care services, medications, and missed days of work was $76.6 billion.

The typical treatment program for most people with high blood pressure can be a combination of diet, exercise, stress management techniques, and medication. For many who opt for the medication route, it’s estimated that 26 percent still do not have their hypertension under control. Since many medications also have some form of side effect it can be a frustrating journey trying to get your blood pressure under control.

Enhancing the body’s ability to produce nitric oxide is seldom considered yet Nobel Prize Laureate in Medicine Dr. Louis Ignarro makes the following statement regarding nitric oxide and cardiovascular health:

More effective than any other factor in the body, nitric oxide can dilate the smooth muscle of the blood vessels.  With this dilation, the vessels can relax and allow blood to flow easily through them – and quite possibly lower the blood pressure.”

Nitric oxide is the body’s most powerful vasodilator and causes the smooth muscle of the vascular wall to relax.  This regulates your blood pressure and the health of your endothelium controls this process.  Properly nourishing and repairing your endothelium so that it can properly produce nitric oxide is a natural way to help maintain normal blood pressure.

Nitric Oxide and Cardiovascular Health – Strokes and Heart Attacks!

When you have a blood clot that causes a blockage in the brain we call it a stroke and when that blockage occurs in the heart it’s called a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association’s website 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot forms in the bloodstream.  This blood clot then lodges within an artery of the brain causing a blockage.  This blockage reduces the necessary blood flow to that section of the brain leading to damage or death to those brain cells.  The amount of damage determines the severity of the stroke.  This same scenario applies to your heart.  Add to this the following statistics:

  • 77% of Americans treated for a first stroke had high blood pressure!
  • 69% of Americans who experienced a first heart attack had high blood pressure!

As you can see the prevention of strokes and heart attacks really centers on addressing high blood pressure and reducing the potential for the formation of blood clots.  Your body does this naturally through nitric oxide – the master signaling molecule of your entire cardiovascular system. Nitric oxide causes two very specific events or reactions to occur.

Nitric oxide keeps blood platelet cells from sticking together. This helps to prevent blood clots from occurring in the vascular system, thereby reducing the risk for strokes and heart attacks.

Nitric oxide is your body’s most powerful vasodilator to relax the smooth muscle of your vascular wall to properly control blood pressure. This improves blood flow and directly addresses the number one risk factor for strokes and heart attacks.  Additionally, your endothelium is a critical component in the regulation of your blood pressure by controlling the response of your vascular wall to the changing pressures within your cardiovascular system.

Nitric Oxide and Cardiovascular Health – Conclusion!

While there is much more that can be said about nitric oxide and cardiovascular health it is very evident that many of the cardiovascular issues facing the American population could be addressed through the proper production of nitric oxide.

Learning how to properly nourish, heal, and support your endothelium through proper nutritional supplementation, diet, and exercise would be a much more cost effective and life enhancing way then the current approach taken today.  As stated at the beginning of this article, nitric oxide is critical to your cardiovascular health.

Together we can work to save a million lives!

Dan Hammer

Dan Hammer has a background in biology, chemistry, and exercise physiology.  He used to run one of the largest health club operations in the Chicago area and has been helping people with their wellness issues for more than 25 years.

The information contained in this article is for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam.  The information about nitric oxide and cardiovascular health has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.

Endothelial Health Equals Cardiovascular Health!

When was the last time anyone ever asked you about your endothelial health?


It’s estimated that there are approximately 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the adult body.  These blood vessels include arteries, veins, and capillaries.  They are all protected by a microscopic inner lining of endothelial cells, which are commonly called the endothelium.  It’s important to note that these cells line the entire circulatory system from the inside of your heart all the way down to your smallest capillary.  When added up, the volume of these endothelial cells would cover the surface area of 4 to 8 tennis courts depending upon the size of the individual. That’s amazing since the endothelium is only one cell thick and can’t be seen by the human eye.

Once discovered the endothelium was classified as an inert membrane whose primary function was to keep the blood in the circulatory system and out of the body’s tissues and organs. Research over the last 25 years has shown that your endothelium is an active, multi-functional organ that plays a vital role in metabolic, immunologic, and cardiovascular health. Your endothelium is now considered to be the single largest secreting organ in the body.

Endothelial health is so important that the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to three American researchers who discovered how the endothelium converts the amino acid L-arginine into nitric oxide – the master signaling molecule of your entire cardiovascular system.

Endothelial Health and Its Life Enhancing Functions!

Because endothelial cells line every blood vessel they play an important role in the proper function of every organ in your body.  The following is a list of the known functions of the endothelium.  Each function plays an important role in endothelial health, cardiovascular health, and your overall wellness:

  • Angiogenesis – The formation of new capillaries is called angiogenesis and is regulated in part by the endothelium. Endothelial health is extremely important in wound healing.  It also plays a significant role in muscle creation and in the heart’s ability to develop collateral vessels.  These collateral vessels can help lessen the impact of a blood vessel blockage in the heart by providing alternative routes for blood flow.
  • Blood Flow – Your endothelium helps to facilitate blood flow. It does this by providing a smooth surface that inhibits platelet adhesion and clotting.  It also tries to inhibit foreign substances from adhering to its cellular wall, which can lead to plaque formations.  Large molecules like LDL (bad) cholesterol and/or toxic substances like nicotine damage the intercellular junctions between the endothelial cells allowing deposits to build up.  This causes the smooth and flexible lining of your blood vessels to become rough and hard to directly impact endothelial health.

It’s these plaque formations that are at the heart of atherosclerosis. As this process continues over time, the deposits or plaques become larger which narrows the interior of the blood vessel making it harder for blood to pass through.  This increases resistance to blood flow, which can cause your blood pressure to increase. The following factors can damage the endothelium and increase these formations:  smoking, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension or high blood pressure, and inflammation. Elevated homocysteine levels have also been associated with premature atherosclerosis and can effect endothelial health and function.

Atherosclerosis was once thought to be irreversible but new studies clearly show that when the proper biochemical environment is provided the injured endothelium can return to its undamaged state. Proper supplementation with L-arginine, the precursor for nitric oxide, has been shown to diminish lesion formation, reverse endothelial dysfunction, and lead to improved endothelial health.

  • Blood Clotting – The narrowing of your blood vessels also causes blood turbulence that can lead to the formation of blood clots.  These blood clots, if large enough or if they pass through too narrow of an opening, can eventually lodge themselves in a blood vessel causing a blockage. When this happens in the heart we call it a heart attack.  When it
    happens in the brain it is called a stroke.

The endothelial cells produce a molecule called nitric oxide, which inhibits platelet adhesion, activation, secretion and aggregation, and promotes platelet disaggregation. This is extremely important in preventing blood clots in the vascular system to lessen the risk for heart attacks and strokes. It’s also a critical factor in sickle cell anemia to help prevent sickle cells from adhering to each other and clinging to the vascular walls.  This helps to prevent blockages, which cause most of the pain and tissue damage associated with sickle cell anemia.

While using nitric oxide to prevent blood clotting, it’s interesting to note that the endothelial cells are also necessary for blood to clot. They synthesize the vitally important molecule called Factor VIII or von Willibrand’s Factor, which is essential for blood clotting.  Without this molecule a person could bleed to death from a simple scratch.

  • Blood pressure – Not only do the endothelial cells provide a dynamically-controlled structural barrier between the circulating blood and surrounding tissues and organs but they also produce signaling molecules that influence vasodilation and vasoconstriction. Vasodilation causes blood vessels to relax allowing for greater blood flow.  This reduces blood pressure. Vasoconstriction causes blood vessels to tighten reducing blood flow and causing blood pressure to increase.

It’s currently believed that the endothelial cells are the controlling factor in the regulation of blood pressure. They produce both nitric oxide, which is the most potent vasodilator, and Endothelin-1 the most potent vasoconstrictor. The proper production of nitric oxide is fundamental to maintaining normal blood pressures, which means that endothelial health is critical to helping you maintain normal blood pressures.

  • Specialized barrier function – Endothelial cells act as selective filters to regulate the passage of gases, fluids, and various molecules across their membranes.  For example, in the brain and retina the endothelial cells are tightly linked together to create a barrier that only allows selective molecules to pass through it.  In the liver, spleen, and bone marrow, the endothelial cells are loosely linked allowing for cellular trafficking between their intercellular gaps.  However, in the kidneys, endocrine glands, and intestinal villi, the endothelial cells have a different type of selective permeability to allow for efficient filtering, secretion, and absorption based on that organ’s function.

Endothelial health is also critical to the proper function of your immune system. Your white blood cells or leucocytes are produced in the bone marrow.  They travel through the blood stream where the endothelial cells facilitate their passage into your body’s tissue to allow them to destroy foreign agents or antigens.  This gate-keeping role varies for each organ system but is dependent upon endothelial health and function.

Endothelial Health Is Critically Important!

It’s amazing that a simple lining of cells on the interior walls of your blood vessels could have such a profound affect on your
cardiovascular health and overall wellness.  Yet that’s exactly the case with your endothelial cells.  Endothelial health is critical to your health and your body’s ability to produce nitric oxide – the master signaling molecule of your entire cardiovascular system.  When impaired, endothelial dysfunction has been linked to the following diseases:

  • Diabetes
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Lupus
  • Scleroderma
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • ALS
  • Parkinson’s
  • Hypercoagulation of Blood, Thrombosis, Clotting Disorders
  • Renal Failure
  • Metabolic Syndrome including Abdominal Obesity and Insulin Resistance
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Glaucoma

That’s quite a list of diseases. Properly bringing in a good source of L-arginine, combined with good eating and lifestyle habits like those found in the Mediterranean diet, can help reverse damage to the endothelium and improve endothelial health. This means that your choices have a direct impact on endothelial health, which impacts cardiovascular health and all the diseases listed above.

It also means that you have the ability to prevent most of these diseases by focusing your attention on ways to improve your endothelial health and function. We’ll look at this in our next article especially as it applies to proper nitric oxide production.

Together we can work to save a million lives by concentrating on endothelial health!

Dan Hammer

Dan Hammer has a background in biology, chemistry, and exercise physiology.  He used to run one of the largest health club operations in the Chicago area and has been helping people with their wellness issues for more than 25 years.

The information contained in this article is for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information about endothelial health has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent and disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.