Nitric oxide is a molecule that the body produces to help its 50 trillion cells communicate with each other by transmitting signals throughout the entire body.

There have been over 60,000 studies done on nitric oxide in the last 20 years. In 1998, the Nobel Prize for Medicine was given to three scientists that discovered the important role of signaling that nitric oxide has.

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One reason that nitric oxide has receieved so much attention is due to its cardiovascular benefits. In fact, nitric oxide is vital for a healthy cardiovascular system. Nitric oxide is produced by the endothelium, or lining of the blood vessels, and is highly responsive to healthy heart habits. There are two ways to increase the nitric oxide in your body; one is through exercise and the other is through diet, specifically by consuming the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline. These are both ways to develop healthy heart habits–by what you eat and how often you exercise. The opposite is true as well. A poor diet and lack of exercise cause the levels of nitric oxide to plummet and plaque to build up in the blood vessels. Too much plaque leads to the condition atherosclerosis and increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Lowering LDL cholesterol levels helps increase nitric oxide. Studies have shown that L-arginine may be able to reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels and total cholesterol levels by up to 7% and triglycerides by up to 6%. Also, other studies showed the HDL or “good” cholesterol levels were increased by 9%.

Therefore, to both lower the risk of heart disease and have a healthy heart, everyone should be keeping an eye on their cholesterol levels, eating a heart-healthy diet and making sure that they are getting enough exercise.