Often when we refer to nitric oxide (NO), we are referring to the toxic chemical in fumes from automobile exhaust. At a much lower (i.e. less toxic) dose, however, nitric oxide is beneficial to our cardiovascular health. This compound is important because it opens blood vessels and allows for increased blood flow and elevated cellular communication. Therefore, nitric oxide plays a pivotal role in delivering enough oxygen to cells and tissues. Nitric oxide helps to prevent fat deposits from sticking to artery walls and plays a role in preventing the hardening of arteries.
L-arginine is an important amino acid which is converted into nitric oxide by our cells. Scientists have found that humans living at higher elevation have higher levels of nitric oxide in their blood than those who live closer to sea level. This is because the amounts of oxygen in the air decreases as altitude increases, and higher altitude populations have to convert more L-arginine to nitric oxide in order to get enough oxygen to their cells.
To ensure optimum cardiovascular health, make sure you’re exercising regularly, eating a low-saturated fat diet and consuming foods (or supplements) that contain healthy doses of arginine to ensure your body is producing beneficial amounts of nitric oxide. Some examples of arginine rich food include beans, walnuts, salmon and almonds.