Is boosting nitric oxide the antidote to getting older?
The existentialist Gabriel
“Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be experienced.” Nevertheless, scientists remain intent on figuring it out.
The cells in our bodies are susceptible to damage. A sunburn is a visible example. Ultraviolet rays scorch skin cells, causing rapid death. Damage occurs at a slower pace from poor diet, excessive alcohol, smoking, and all kinds of physical and mental stress. Over time, the biological process of replacing damaged cells through replication involves compounding errors, and cells die completely. When too many cells die, biological systems start to falter. This, in short, is aging.
Researchers are exploring experimental drugs, essential trace minerals, and even calorie restriction as avenues to longer lives.
What is the best course in the meantime? Practice preventive medicine from an early age and stick with it. But what if you are already well along in life’s course? Aging is not a prospect; it is a daily reality.
Are you feeling tired, falling asleep in the afternoon, losing your keys or interest in sex? Are you concerned about cardiovascular disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, diabetes and its complications? Do you want to limit the pain and swelling of arthritis, calm the inflammation of asthma and assist the immune system in fighting infection?
The older one gets, hopefully the wiser too. That means a look at history. In 1998, Robert F. Furchgott, Louis J. Ignarro and Ferid Murad shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for their discoveries on the role of nitric oxide in the cardiovascular system.
Researchers had long known that nitroglycerine eased coronary pain by increasing blood supply to the heart’s muscle. But it remained a mystery why arteries expanded until these Nobel laureates explained how nitric oxide sends messages to every cell in the body in nanoseconds.
Nitric oxide first attained star status in the treatment of male impotence. Erectile dysfunction is cured by drugs that produce nitric oxide.
Early in life we produce large amounts of nitric oxide in the endothelial lining (the innermost lining) of blood vessels. This keeps arteries expanded. But after age 40, production of nitric oxide decreases, arteries constrict causing hypertension, and constant pressure injures the inner wall of coronary arteries. This damage results in a chemical and inflammatory reaction that kills one North American every 37 seconds.
Twenty-seven million North Americans also suffer from arthritis, a debilitating condition. When nitric oxide increases circulation, nerve and joint inflammation decreases, which can result in dramatic relief from osteoarthritis. Another 25 million North Americans suffer from Type 2 diabetes due to obesity and 57 million others have borderline diabetes. High blood sugar gradually destroys the circulatory system resulting in heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, amputation of legs, and it doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Decreased amounts of nitric oxide may play a major role in the development of Type 2 diabetes. Low levels result in insulin resistance making it difficult for insulin to enter cells to maintain a normal blood sugar level. Italian researchers found that diabetes patients who also had kidney disease had nitric oxide levels 37% lower than healthy people.
Nitric oxide levels are significantly lower in patients suffering from depression too.
To get more nitric oxide, add leafy greens and beets to the diet. Nitric oxide supplements work quickly when the need for a boost is more urgent. (W. Gifford-Jones, M.D.) is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Harvard Medical School. He trained in general surgery at the Strong Memorial Hospital, University of Rochester, Montreal General Hospital, McGill University and in gynecology at Harvard. He has been a general practitioner, ship’s surgeon and hotel doctor. He is also the author of 10 books. Contact him at email@example.com.
“The cells in our bodies are susceptible to damage. A sunburn is a visible example. Ultraviolet rays scorch skin cells, causing rapid death.”