How Nitric Oxide Helps Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Heart Health

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common health condition that affects millions of people in the United States. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to heart disease and other serious health problems. Fortunately, there's a natural compound already present in your body that works to lower blood pressure and keep your heart healthy and strong. Learn how to maximize production of this heart-healthy molecule and the other ways it supports your overall health.

Learn more about conditions we treat: Cardiovascular Disease

What is nitric oxide?

Nitric oxide (NO) is a gas that is produced in the lining of every blood vessel of every tissue in your body. NO is a vasodilator and signals blood vessels to relax, or dilate, lowering blood pressure. Nitric oxide can also improve blood flow and circulation, allowing oxygen into your tissues.

Additionally, nitric oxide helps regulate inflammation levels, which can protect against diseases like atherosclerosis and heart disease (1). Low nitric oxide levels may raise blood pressure and increase risk for some cardiovascular diseases. 

Related: Don’t Ignore These Chronic Inflammation Warning Signs

How nitric oxide lowers blood pressure

Nitric oxide helps to relax and dilate blood vessels, which leads to a decrease in overall blood pressure. When blood vessels are relaxed, the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body. 

Nitric oxide reduces stress on the cardiovascular system

When we talk about cardiovascular disease, we tend to focus solely on the heart itself, while overlooking the some 60,000 miles of blood vessels that also make up healthy cardiovascular function. These directly impact blood pressure regulation, and also work with nitric oxide to do their job.

While the heart pumps blood, a vast network of arteries and veins contract and dilate to move it throughout the body. This is controlled in large part by the endothelium, or the thin layer of cells that line the inside of blood vessels. These cells also produce nitric oxide. Basically, the healthier your endothelium, the more nitric oxide the cells inside itheart can produce. 

Related: 10 Nutrients for Health Health You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

Benefits of nitric oxide

In addition to helping lower blood pressure, nitric oxide also plays very important roles in various body systems.

Decrease in exercise-related muscle soreness

A form of the amino acid citrulline malate not only increases nitric oxide production, but also decreases delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS. Citrulline malate increases nitric oxide production, which increases blood flow to active muscles. In turn, citrulline malate is thought to increase nutrient delivery and clear waste products that are related to muscle fatigue (2). 

Boost Exercise Performance

Nitric oxide supplements are popular among athletes and gym-goers because of their effects on exercise performance and endurance. Nitric oxide promotes the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to working muscles during exercise by the widening blood vessels, or vasodilation (3). 

Improve blood sugar control associated with type 2 diabetes

In individuals with type 2 diabetes, there is often a decreased production of nitric oxide. This can result in poor vascular health and an increased risk for hypertension and heart disease over time.

Increasing nitric oxide—via supplementation or other means—may be helpful in the prevention of disease progression. Greater nitric oxide levels can also improve insulin sensitivity, allowing for better blood sugar control (4).

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What are the symptoms of low nitric oxide?

If your nitric oxide levels are low, you might experience one or more of the following signs (5,6,7,8):

  • High blood pressure or hypertension
  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Erectile dysfunction (if you are a male)
  • Insomnia and sleep issues 
  • Depression 
  • Reduced endurance and stamina 

Additionally, if you have a diet that is low in nutrients and protein, or frequently take antacids or proton-pump inhibitors, you may be more likely to have low nitric oxide production.

Nitric oxide is still a relatively new addition to the heart health conversation, and there are no tests that directly measure nitric oxide levels. Testing for overall endothelial function may provide some estimate of your nitric oxide production capability. 

Explore cardiovascular testing with CentreSpringMD.

How to increase nitric oxide naturally – 4 easy ways

Eat foods with high nitric oxide

Some plant foods contain nitrates which are then efficiently converted to nitric oxide in the body.

One review concluded that since beetroot is so accessible and inexpensive and could greatly decrease the risk of cardiovascular events, that “beetroot juice supplementation should be promoted as a key component of a healthy lifestyle to control blood pressure in healthy and hypertensive individuals”(9) Other foods that contain nitrates are celery, spinach, and arugula.

Get more vitamin C

Antioxidants like vitamin C help to extend the life of nitric oxide in the bloodstream. Because nitric oxide is actually an unstable molecule, it degrades quickly, so it must be constantly recharged.

One way to slow its breakdown is by consuming antioxidants like vitamins A, C, & E, selenium, and polyphenols from fruits & vegetables.

Take supplements that boost nitric oxide production

Nitric oxide boosting supplements don’t contain nitric oxide itself, but precursors that increase your body’s production of nitric oxide. These include:

  • Beetroot powder
  • The amino acids l-citrulline and l-arginine

Get moving

Exercise keeps your endothelial cells and blood vessels healthy by increasing your body’s natural ability to produce nitric oxide.

Get heart healthy with functional medicine

A heart-healthy diet & lifestyle helps maximize nitric oxide production and supports optimal cardiovascular health. For more in depth testing and evaluation to be proactive about long-term cardiovascular function, your CentreSpringMD provider may also recommend:

  • Genetic testing (CIMT, MTHFR)
  • Inflammation markers like hs-CRP
  • Cholesterol testing
  • Diet & lifestyle evaluation
  • Gut & liver function analysis

Contact a patient care coordinator to discuss testing options.

To protect your cardiovascular health, your practitioner will look at potential genetic factors, as well as lifestyle, dietary, and environmental factors that may be contributing to your overall risk for heart disease, stroke, and high cholesterol.




heart health, Holistic Medicine

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