July 2012 | A Breakthrough in Diagnosing and Testing Cardiovascular Disease

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The role of the cardiovascular system is to deliver oxygenated blood and nutrients to every cell in your body and, at the same time, remove carbon dioxide and toxins from your cells. Failure of the cardiovascular system to do so can cause damage and death to cells, especially to cells that have a higher need for oxygen such as the brain cells and the heart cells. Known risk factors for cardiovascular disease are high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, excessive use of alcohol, stress and lack of exercise, all of which can be altered to your benefit.

However, the greatest risk factor of cardiovascular disease, and most difficult to affect, is age. The risk of stroke doubles every decade after the age of 55 years; 87 percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are 60 years and older.  While men are several times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease at an earlier age, women after menopause become as susceptible to cardiovascular disease as men.

While research has shown that damage to the arteries may begin early in childhood, most cases of cardiovascular disease aren’t diagnosed until a sudden event occurs such as a heart attack or stroke; in other words, after damage has been done. An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is the standard test to search for plaque in the arteries yet it is inadequate at picking up the early stages of plaque development. I can speak of this firsthand as I had an ECG recently and it showed no appreciable plaque in my arteries. Shortly after, I had a different test called the Max Pulse test which measures the heart pulse wave. This is done by inserting the left index finger into a monitor that measures and records the wave of the heart pulse. From this reading of my pulse wave, my circulation adequacy was determined.  Out of seven grades of heart disease I was classed as a Type 2 which meant I had a slight, early stage build up of plaque in my arteries, though overall my circulation was generally good.

It was recommended I take a supplement whose goal is to increase Nitric Oxide in the circulation system to vasodilate the arteries and increase circulation. After a month I was retested and my circulation had improved to Type 1 which is normal circulation. I could have predicted this result as my running ability had improved noticeably.

The key nutrient in the production of Nitric Acid has long been known to be the common dietary amino acid L-Arginine. A nitrogen molecule from the Arginine molecule binds with an Oxygen molecule to form Nitric Oxide gas which keeps the arteries open and flowing. The production of precious Nitric Oxide by your arteries decreases slightly with age, but the decrease in Nitric Oxide accelerates dramatically with the build up of plaque in the arteries due to the life style factors mentioned earlier—smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, excessive use of alcohol, stress, lack of exercise and age.

Taking Arginine can dramatically increase your production of Nitric Oxide and regain proper circulation. The problem is that Arginine will only make Nitric Oxide for a few fleeting seconds. For this reason there is a second amino acid called L-Citrulline, which slowly produces more Arginine thus greatly lengthening the production of Nitric Oxide and the vasodilatation of the arteries. Other ingredients that further support the Nitric Oxide pathway are certain vitamins and nutrients including  pomegranate extract, Vitis vinifera (grape skin extract) and resveratrol (the medicinal portion of red wine without the alcohol). These ingredients further extend the production of Nitric Oxide to many hours rather than seconds or minutes, and are also well documented as beneficial for preventing cardiovascular disease.

While the main goal of Nitric Oxide enhancement is to accentuate cardiovascular circulation, other benefits are improved vascular tone, lowering blood pressure, balancing insulin secretion, maintaining airway tone, maintaining peristalsis (gut movements), growth of new blood vessels, enhancing nerve development, as a neurotransmitter important in enhancing learning and increasing the strength of male erections.

This role of Nitric Oxide in improving erections shouldn’t be a surprise as it was research on Nitric Oxide that led to the production of Viagra. Viagra works by blocking the enzyme that breaks down Nitric Oxide, thus allowing vasodilatation to linger longer. Using supplements to enhance Nitric Oxide has the same goal as Viagra—to enhance vasodilatation, but by different means, namely by increasing the production of Nitric Oxide using safe dietary ingredients. Indeed, within 2 to 4 weeks of Nitric Oxide enhancement most men report increased sexual vigour.

The Max Pulse Test not only determines the degree of circulation disorder, it also points out stressors that the person might not be fully aware of, such as degree of physical or mental stress and also the resistance that person has to stress. With some people, decreasing their stress load can lead to noticeable improvement of their cardiovascular system.

We now have the Max Pulse test available at the North Shore Naturopathic Clinic at a cost of only $40 per test. It takes about 15 minutes to run the test and then your naturopath would go over the results.  Results could range from Type 1 which is excellent and doesn’t need treatment, to Type 7 which is severe and will likely take longer to respond to the increase of Nitric Oxide.

Foods that help to accentuate the benefits of the Nitric Oxide supplement are the purples and blues such as beet root, blueberries, and pomegranate, leafy greens and the cabbage family, kale in particular.

While use of Nitric Oxide enhancing supplements have been shown to benefit chronic cardiovascular disease, there is evidence it shouldn’t be used immediately after an acute heart attack. For those who’ve been already following the Eating Alive program successfully it shouldn’t take more than a few months to get the circulation system running at top form.