What Is the Connection between Nitric Oxide and Blood Pressure?

T. Carrier

Blood pressure is one of the most important measurements for healthcare professionals. High blood pressure can have adverse consequences for an individual, so the medical community is continually searching for ways to keep blood pressure stabilized. For some professionals, the substance nitric oxide (NO) and blood pressure have a positive connection in this regard. Researchers have discovered that nitric oxide can lower blood pressure by reducing dangerous clogging inside blood vessels.

Nitric Oxide is thought to help lower blood pressure.
Nitric Oxide is thought to help lower blood pressure.

High blood pressure can result in damaging consequences, most notably blood vessel damage in major organs. The medical reading of blood pressure is determined by how much pressure the blood puts on artery or vein walls as it circulates. The buildup of a hard substance called plaque along the interior linings of blood vessels increases blood pressure.

Blood pressure is the force exerted on the walls of blood vessels as blood travels around the body.
Blood pressure is the force exerted on the walls of blood vessels as blood travels around the body.

Nitric oxide is one of the body’s key messengers. This cell-signaling molecule's basic function is information transmission between cells. In essence, it serves as a communication for the body. Its responsibilities are therefore diverse, ranging from fighting disease to facilitating thinking processes. When considering nitric oxide and blood pressure effects, scientists evaluate the substance’s role in relaying messages to blood vessel cells.

Research has indicated a negative correlation between nitric oxide and blood pressure. Simply put, an increase in nitric oxide can slash blood pressure by as much as 60 points. Cholesterol levels also can be reduced by about 20 percent, and plaque buildup can fall by half.

For many years, physicians would use a pharmaceutical form of nitrogen known as nitroglycerin to treat heart disease without truly understanding the reasons for the substance’s beneficial effects. When researchers began to investigate this phenomenon, they found that nitric oxide produced the same positive results. Further investigation demonstrated that this naturally occurring substance helped relax and dilate — or expand — blood vessels. The added space within the vessels in turn reduced inner pressure. The blood vessels had more interior room, so plaque buildup and its damaging, clogging effects was delayed, providing the first direct evidence for a connection between nitric oxide and blood pressure.

Elevating nitric oxide levels can be assisted by several methods. For example, foods that contain plentiful amounts of vitamin C or an amino acid nutrient known as L-arginine can help build nitric oxide levels, including cheese, milk, nuts and certain types of meat and fruit. Lower amounts of sodium can have a positive effect on nitric oxide and blood pressure as well. A solid exercise routine with physical activity of at least half an hour for four or five times a week can also boost nitric oxide in the body. In addition, breathing slowly can bolster several gases in the body, including nitric oxide.

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