Heart disease is now the leading killer in the U.S. In 2009, almost 785,000 Americans suffered from heart attacks. According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one person dies from a coronary event every minute.
A simple amino acid may help you minimize the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that the amino acid L-arginine has powerful and long-term effects on cardiovascular health. Dr. Joseph Mercola discusses how supplementing with L-arginine can lead to a healthy heart.
L-arginine and Nitric Oxide: Their Role in Cardiovascular Health
L-arginine is a known nutritional substrate found in your vessel lining that’s available to endothelial cells, found in the blood vessels’ interior surface. It is essential to nitric oxide production. Without it, your blood vessel’s lining, or endothelium, is unable to create nitric oxide.
You might wonder why nitric oxide, an air pollutant released by car exhaust and an explosive chemical used for dynamite, is essential to body functions. Nitric oxide is actually the gas released in the body as a cellular signaling molecule that promotes blood vessel dilation and flexibility. It:
- Supports healthy blood pressure levels already in the normal range
- Supports healthy blood flow
- Helps relax muscle cells in your veins
The nitric acid produced by the endothelial cells keeps your blood vessels relaxed and open for better blood flow, and can help alleviate coronary heart disease, clogged arteries and chest pain.
L-arginine’s effect on nitric oxide can also help men with erectile dysfunction, since it relaxes the blood vessels, including those that supply blood to your penis. When the penis’ blood vessels dilate, they can increase blood flow and help maintain an erection.
Why You Need an L-Arginine Supplement
As you age, the efficiency of nitric oxide’s ability to send signals also decline. If you fail to take in enough L-arginine, the endothelial cells might not make enough nitric oxide to promote cardiovascular health and optimal blood flow.
A few changes to your diet will be very helpful. There are foods that contain good amounts of L-arginine, such as:
- Sunflower and sesame seeds
- Dairy products
- Nuts (peanuts, pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts and hazelnuts,)
- Whole grains (oats, barley, buckwheat, and brown rice)
Dr. Mercola recommends taking a high-quality L-arginine supplement to enhance your body’s supply. This is essential for those with risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as excess weight, high blood pressure, or elevated insulin levels.
If you are suffering from an active herpes infection, using L-arginine supplements is NOT advisable. These infections include herpes zoster (shingles) or herpes simplex (oral or genital herpes). During the infectious phase, avoid L-arginine supplements and use lysine instead, until the lesions disappear.
More Healthy Heart Tips from Dr. Mercola
Remember that increasing L-arginine intake is just one aspect of promoting good cardiovascular health. There are other ways to keep your heart healthy.
Optimizing your vitamin D levels is one example. Low vitamin D levels in the blood have been correlated with high risks of heart attacks and heart disease. In a previous study, it was discovered that women who take vitamin D supplements lower their risk for heart disease by a third. Other physiological mechanisms from vitamin D production help fight heart disease as well, such as:
- Suppression of vascular calcification
- Increased natural anti-inflammatory cytokines in the body
- Inhibition of vascular smooth muscle growth
Improve your vitamin D levels through sun exposure, using safe tanning beds, or by taking vitamin D3 supplements.
You can also follow Dr. Mercola’s Take Control of Your Health program to reduce inflammation in the body and remove cardiovascular disease risks. This program includes tips on stress reduction, exercise, avoiding toxins, and a nutrition plan to help you come up with a heart-friendly diet.