Everyone knows that exercise is good for your heart, but how huffing and puffing, pushing and pulling makes such a big difference to heart health, is still a bit of a mystery.
Researchers from Emory University School of Medicine think it is because exercise charges up a battery. The charged up battery is able to keep the engine turning over, when the pipes become blocked providing protection to the heart.
The battery that is being charged up, is the battery that supplies the heart with nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide keeps the blood moving
Nitric oxide (NO) is a chemical which doesn’t stick around for very long, but when it is flitting about, it turns on the chemical pathways that relax blood vessels. Blood vessels depend on the production of nitric oxide to be happy and healthy.
Nitric oxide encourages the endothelial cells which line the blood vessels, to loosen up a little, resulting in improved blood flow through the pipes because the pipe are a little bigger. Better blood flow, means improved oxygen delivery and wider pipes, means that the pressure in the plumbing system drops.
Increasing nitric oxide levels lowers blood pressure
Manipulating nitric oxide levels has been used as a strategy to treat heart problems for years. Medications which influence nitric oxide directly and indirectly include nitroprusside, nitroglycerin (Nitrostat®) and sildenafil (more commonly known as Viagra®).
Synthetic chemicals, produced by pharmaceutical companies, are not the only way to influence nitric oxide levels. Many vegetables have high nitrate concentrations, which can give muscles an oxygen boost, through their conversion to nitric oxide. This is how Popeye the sailor man used spinach to supercharge his muscles.
Exercise is the ultimate nitric oxide generating system.
Exercise charges up the nitric oxide battery
The huffing and puffing, pushing and pulling during an exercise session, generates nitric oxide.
The increased production is facilitated by higher levels of the enzyme nitric oxide synthetase (eNOS, endothelial nitric oxide synthase), in response to the increased demand for oxygen.
But the process yields excess nitric oxide, beyond what is needed in the moment to keep the blood flowing round and the muscles supplied with the oxygen they need, to burn fuel and power the body.
Excess nitric oxide is stockpiled
Nitric oxide exists for a very short period of time. Rather than letting the excess go to waste, it is stored in the blood stream and heart in the more stable forms as nitrite and nitrosothiols.
The nitrite and nitrosothiols levels power the nitric oxide battery.
Battery charges the heart in a crisis
When the body needs a boost of oxygen, it can do a little chemical rearranging and generate nitric oxide from these compounds.
This is precisely what the heart does if a blockage develops in one of the blood vessels.
The crisis draws on the nitric oxide supply stored in the battery. A flood of nitric oxide instructs the blood vessels, which are in a panic because of a shortage of oxygen, to relax. As soon as they relax, blood flow improves and so does the oxygen supply. The influx of oxygen protects the heart so the resulting damage is decreased.
The battery can remain charged for around a week, if it was fully charged because of regular exercise activity.
A charged battery increases your chances of surviving a heart attack, with minimal damage.
Charge up your battery
A little huffing and puffing on a regular basis really is good for your heart.
NOTE : If your heart hasn’t huffed or puffed for a while, don’t overdo it and precipitate a heart attack. Ease into an exercise regimen.
So get moving and throw in a few green leafy veggies or beetroot into the mix, to keep the nitric oxide levels at optimum.
Exercise Protects Against Myocardial Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury via Stimulation of ?3-Adrenergic Receptors and Increased Nitric Oxide Signaling: Role of Nitrite and Nitrosothiols. Circulation Research, (2011) J. W. Calvert, M. Elston, J. Pablo Aragon, C. K. Nicholson, B. F. Moody, R. L. Hood, A. Sindler, S. Gundewar, D. R. Seals, L. A. Barouch, D. J. Lefer.
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