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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

The Cardioprotective Role of Nitric Oxide

Jan 31, 2023 09:31AM ● By Gary Kracoff, RPh
Thousands of studies have shown the essential role of nitric oxide in multiple body systems, including the cardiovascular system. Composed of the heart and blood vessels, the cardiovascular system transports oxygen and nutrients to the organs and tissues throughout the body. The heart pumps about five liters of blood per minute, working tirelessly throughout our lifetime. In a 70-year period, the heart beats more than 2.5 billion times. Making sure our heart has enough energy available and supporting the health of the cardiovascular vessels and tissues is extremely important.

Nitric Oxide’s Role

Nitric Oxide (NO) is a gas made up of one atom of nitrogen bonded to one atom of oxygen. It is a signaling molecule and one of the most important molecules produced in the human body. It has a major impact on the energy production in the cells. NO has several cardioprotective roles including the regulation of blood pressure and vascular tone, inhibition of platelet aggregation and leukocyte adhesion and prevention of smooth muscle cell proliferation.

Produced in the lining of the blood vessels called endothelium cells, NO serves as a critical signaling molecule in the cardiovascular and circulatory system. It helps expand the blood vessels, increasing blood flow and decreasing plaque growth and blood clotting. Our bodies cannot function as intended without proper circulation of the blood. Reduced bioavailability of NO is thought to be one of the central factors common to cardiovascular disease and has an important role in blood pressure regulation.

Nitric Oxide Production Declines with Age

Starting in our 30s, nitric oxide production begins to decline by 20 percent every 10 years. Most people over the age of 65 have lost 85 percent of their ability to make NO. Factors influencing the decline in natural production of NO include aging, oxidative stress, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, diabetes and smoking.

Some signs of low nitric oxide include poor vision due to dysregulation of interocular pressure, stress and anxiety, increased body heat, fatigue, loss of memory, longer recovery time after work-out, cold extremities and erectile dysfunction.

The healthy bacteria in our mouth takes the nitrites in food we eat, and then combined with the acid in the stomach, converts nitrite to nitrates which are a building block for nitric oxide in the body. Foods that boost nitric oxide levels are meat, poultry, garlic, dark chocolate, leafy greens, nuts and seeds and beets. However, using mouthwashes, antacids or acid blockers can decrease the body’s ability to make NO from the food we eat, so many people unknowingly decrease their nitric oxide level daily.

To determine one’s NO level, a simple saliva test strip can be used. If the test determines low levels, supplements containing beet root, grape seed, olive leaf, malic acid, theobromine and hawthorn berry can provide the body with the building blocks for NO.

Dr. Gary Kracoff is a registered pharmacist with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center, located at 577 Main St., Waltham. For more information about testing and supplementation, call 781-893-3870 ext. 111 or visit