Nitric Oxide and Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force that your blood exerts against the walls of your blood vessels. There is a range of blood pressure measurements that are considered to be healthy. If your measurement exceeds the normal range, you have high blood pressure, a serious medical condition. According to the World Health Organisation, about 1.13 billion people all over the world have chronic high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension and most of them don’t have the condition under control. In New Zealand, about 1 in 5 people have high blood pressure.
Dangers of high blood pressure
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Your blood pressure can temporarily increase when you are sick or under stress. However, it will go down once you feel better or change your lifestyle or manage your stress. Doctors don’t normally prescribe medication for temporary high blood pressure.
Chronic high blood pressure is a serious medical condition that must be treated. If it is not controlled, it increases the risks of many health conditions which can then lead to premature death. The complications are listed below.
Metabolic syndrome. You may develop a bunch of metabolic disorders that includes increased waist circumference, high blood pressure, high insulin levels, low levels of good cholesterol and high triglycerides. These conditions increase your chances of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure can cause atherosclerosis, the hardening and thickening of the arteries, which later causes a heart attack, a stroke or other complications.
Aneurysm. Your blood vessels can weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it causes internal bleeding and can be life-threatening.
Heart failure. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood against the higher pressure in your vessels, so the walls of its pumping chamber thicken. As a result, it becomes inefficient, can’t meet the body’s needs and eventually fails.
Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes can result in vision loss.
Narrowed and weakened blood vessels in your kidneys can prevent their optimal functioning.
Memory and cognitive dysfunction. Uncontrolled hypertension may also affect your thinking, memory and learning abilities. This happens to many hypertensive people.
Dementia. Narrowed/blocked arteries reduce blood flow to the brain, causing dementia (with symptoms such as memory impairment, impaired reasoning and personality changes).
Once your blood pressure has become chronic, you will need to take daily medication prescribed by your medical practitioner in order to keep blood pressure normal.
Importance of optimal blood pressure
As mentioned above, high blood pressure is dangerous to your health and it can lead to serious complications and even death. Unfortunately, most people with high blood pressure don’t experience any symptoms until it is too high and they collapse and wake up in the emergency rooms.
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This chart shows the ranges of blood pressure .As you grow older, it is wise to check your blood pressure regularly to make sure it is within the normal range. As long as it is in the green range, you are ok. If it is in the blue range, it is too low and you may experience dizziness and fainting. If your blood pressure is in the red region, you are in danger of developing complications so you need medical attention fast. Your doctor will prescribe a course of treatment that will keep your blood pressure within the ideal range.
Nitric oxide for blood pressure
It has been known for a long time that a diet high in fruits and vegetables decreases blood pressure and reduces the risk of various diseases. Scientists set out to test the positive effects of certain compounds found in fruits and vegetables on blood pressure levels. They found that nitrates, found in beetroot and dark leafy vegetables, are converted into nitric oxide in the body which then causes blood vessels to relax and dilate and effectively lowers blood pressure.
Nitric oxide is a compound that is produced in almost every type of cell in the human body. It is one of the most vital molecules for maintaining blood vessel health. Scientific evidence has strongly suggested that this compound plays a major role in regulating blood pressure. It also shows that when the body’s ability to use nitric oxide is impaired, high blood pressure and heart disease develop. That is why doctors prescribe nitric oxide for people with high blood pressure.
How NO works to lower blood pressure
Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning that it relaxes the inner muscles of your blood vessels, causing the blood vessels to widen. In this way, it increases blood flow and reduces blood pressure. This is the major reason why supplements that increase nitric oxide in the body have become more popular than other supplement categories.
The supplements don’t contain the nitric oxide compound. Rather, they contain compounds that your body can use to synthesize nitric oxide, which then works in the body to lower blood pressure.
While it reduces blood pressure, NO has been shown to provide many other benefits for health and performance including:
- Improving penile erectile function. Nitric oxide relaxes the muscles in the penis, enabling the chambers inside the penis to fill with blood to achieve an erection.
- Decreases delayed-onset muscle soreness. When taken before strenuous exercise, it increases blood flow to active muscles and reduces the level of soreness that normally occurs 24-48 hours after exercise.
- Improve exercise performance. Widened blood vessels increase delivery of nutrients and oxygen to working muscles during exercise. This enhances exercise performance.
- Helps type 2 diabetes management. In a study, type 2 diabetes sufferers experienced improved insulin sensitivity after taking nitric oxide supplements.
The bottom line
By taking nitric oxide supplements, you can maintain normal blood pressure and enjoy several other health benefits. NO supplements are generally known to be safe though some people have experienced stomach discomfort and diarrhoea after taking more than 10 grams of L-arginine. Beetroot supplements tend to turn the urine and stool dark red but this is a harmless effect.