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Emerging Research Suggests Heart Disease Could Have a Natural Fix!

L-arginine, raisins and assorted nutsA recent study looked at the effects of long-term L-arginine supplementation on the health of patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors. Ninety patients were randomly assigned to two groups -- one that received daily oral L-arginine and one that received placebo capsules.

Patients were evaluated for a number of health factors, including lipid profile, glucose, insulin, and arterial elasticity.

According to the study in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology:

"... [L]arge artery elasticity index (LAEI) ... was significantly greater in patients treated with L-arginine than in the placebo group ... Systemic vascular resistance was significantly lower in patients treated with L-arginine ...

This improvement was associated with a decrease in systolic blood pressure, peripheral vascular resistance as well as a decrease in aldosterone levels."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Emerging research is pointing to L-arginine, an amino acid, as a powerful player in your cardiovascular health. In the latest research, supplementation with L-arginine resulted in multiple beneficial vascular effects in people with multiple risk factors for heart disease.

L-arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide and is actually the only known nutritional substrate in your vessel lining available to endothelial cells (a layer of cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels) for nitric oxide production.

In other words, the lining in your vessels (endothelium) need L-arginine to create nitric oxide.

Why is Nitric Oxide Important?

Nitric oxide is a common air pollutant released by automobile exhaust and other sources (it's also the explosive chemical in dynamite). Ironically, nitric oxide is also the gas released in your body as a cellular signaling molecule to help promote healthy blood vessel flexibility and dilation -- a discovery that earned three scientists the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

The use of a gas, in this case nitric oxide, for signaling between cells in your body, was an entirely new concept until just over a decade ago, but now it's known that nitric oxide:

  • Enhances your blood flow when produced by blood vessel cells
  • Helps support healthy blood pressure levels that are already within the normal range
  • Is used as a signal molecule in your brain and immune system

Vasodilating (vessel widening) compounds also release nitric oxide to help relax muscle cells in your veins, and endothelial cells lining your blood vessels produce this gas to help support healthy blood flow.

Why L-arginine May be Useful for Supporting Heart Health

If you include all age groups, heart disease is the leading killer of Americans. An estimated 785,000 Americans suffered heart attacks in 2009 and one person dies from a coronary event every minute, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics.

So clearly, anything that can help reduce your risk of heart disease is worth taking note of.

Remember, your endothelial cells produce nitric oxide to help your vessels stay relaxed and open for blood flow -- a key component of cardiovascular health that may play a beneficial role in:

  • Clogged arteries
  • Chest pain
  • Coronary artery disease

In fact, studies show that L-arginine may:

It is through this same mechanism of enhancing the action of nitric oxide that L-arginine may also help with erectile dysfunction by helping to relax your blood vessels, including those supplying blood to your penis. As blood vessels in your penis dilate, it increases blood flow, which helps maintain an erection.

However, nitric oxide signaling efficiency declines as a normal part of aging. And without enough L-arginine, your endothelial cells may not create enough nitric oxide to promote optimal blood flow and cardiovascular health.

This is why a high-quality L-arginine supplement may be a simple way to enhance your body's supply, especially if you know you have risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, excess weight, or high insulin levels (diabetes).

You can also find L-arginine in dietary sources and may be able to somewhat enhance your levels by eating more:

  • Nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews and peanuts)
  • Sesame and sunflower seeds
  • Raisins
  • Coconut
  • Dairy products
  • Meat
  • Some whole grains (oats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice)

Supplementation Caution

If you decide to supplement with L-arginine it is important to note that it does have one minor side effect. It is clearly not recommended if you are suffering from any active herpes infection. This would include herpes simplex, as in oral or genital herpes, or herpes zoster, as in shingles.

If that is the case you should supplement with lysine until the lesions are resolved and avoid all arginine supplementation during the infectious phase.

More Tips for Heart Health

Keeping your heart healthy depends on much more than just your body's production of L-arginine and nitric oxide.

For instance, low levels of vitamin D in your blood have long been correlated with a higher risk of heart disease and heart attacks, and a previous study found women who take vitamin D supplements lower their risk of death from heart disease by one-third.

There are a number of physiological mechanisms triggered by vitamin D production through sunlight exposure that act to fight heart disease, such as:

  • An increase in your body's natural anti-inflammatory cytokines
  • The suppression of vascular calcification
  • The inhibition of vascular smooth muscle growth

So to everyone, make sure you're monitoring your vitamin D level regularly and then taking the steps -- either sun exposure, safe tanning bed or vitamin D3 supplements -- to keep your level in the optimal range.

Then, apply the Take Control of Your Health program. This will virtually eliminate your heart disease risk -- sometimes quite rapidly -- because it helps to significantly reduce inflammation in your body. And keeping your inflammation levels low is key if you want to reduce your risk of heart disease.

You can become familiar with the nutritional aspect of the program right now using my nutrition plan, but the program is much more than just nutritional. It addresses the big picture strategy you need, from exercise and stress reduction to healthy fats and avoiding toxins, to optimize your health.