Exercise improves nitric oxide, slows aging and decreases the chances of heart attack, stroke, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and more.
Having a gene called Nitric Oxide Synthase (NOS) can cause a decrease in the amount of nitric oxide (NO) in your body, which can have wide-ranging and deleterious effects from limited growth of blood vessels, heart attack and stroke to Alzheimer’s, arthritis, glaucoma and more. Every cell in our bodies needs oxygen and we need nitric oxide to build the vessels to “transport” the oxygen there.
Two molecules of BH4 are needed to create a molecule of nitric oxide. In people with homozygous A1298C (or with other related gene SNPs), there is already a decreased amount of BH4, which is now being sought after to create nitric oxide, break down ammonia, and break down phenylalanine in order to create the catecholamines serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Without these, we are likely to be depressed, anxious, have insomnia and possibly suffer from biopolar or schizophrenia.
As we age, our blood vessels and nitric oxide system become less efficient due to free radical damage, inactivity, and poor diet, causing our veins and arteries to deteriorate. Exercise improves nitric oxide and can therefore help prevent and reverse age-related decrease in NO.
If you do any exercise that increases your heart rate a bit and keep it raised for 10 minutes, you will be able to produce more health-giving NO. One form of nitric oxide in our bodies comes from (is made in) the endothelium (eNOS). The endothelium lines our blood vessels. NO is a messenger molecule telling the blood vessels to widen and allow more “traffic” to get through. With enough NO, blood vessels relax and widen, blood flows through easily, there’s normal blood pressure and less risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Without enough NO, you have high blood pressure, the stressed endothelium is weakened and cracks, cholesterol sticks in the cracks causing wound-like inflammation, the immune system is alerted and sends white blood cells in, they also stick to the NO-poor endothelium, the mixture of cholesterol and dead white blood cells begins the buildup of plaque, eventually the plaque ruptures and spills its contents into the bloodstream, a clot is formed…and next up: heart attack or stroke.
The link between NO and exercise is bidirectional. That means that not only does exercise improves your ability to produce NO, but NO improves your ability to exercise. Exercise speeds up blood flow, which keeps the endothelium toned, washes away inflammation, stops blood from becoming sludge-like, and prevents the buildup of artery-clogging plaque. That increased blood flow also stimulates the endothelium’s production of NO, which keeps blood pressure low and helps stop cholesterol from attaching itself to the artery walls and starting the formation of the plaque.
The best level for “substantial” health benefits is 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as a brisk walk. A 30-minute walk, five days per week, is all it would take. Other examples of moderate-intensity activity include swimming, water aerobics, riding a bike (on level ground or with rolling hills), playing doubles tennis, or pushing a lawn mower. More is better – at this level. You can even double the time. You can also add muscle strengthening to the mix (e.g. lift weights, use resistance bands, do TRX training or yoga).
You can read more in The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution by Nathan Bryan, PhD and Janet Zand, OMD.