Top Ten Reasons How Nitric Oxide Improves Women’s Health
By Dr. Nathan S. Bryan
February is American Heart Health Month and it offers a critical education opportunity on how to address the number one killer of women worldwide. In the United States, almost one in four women dies from heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, even outpacing breast cancer. Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease,” around the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States. Some types of heart problems are more common in women.
The fact that heart disease remains the number one killer of both men and women worldwide is simply unacceptable. We now have the tools to diagnose nitric oxide (NO) deficiency and we have the technology to restore NO production in all patients. The problem then is not lack of knowledge or lack of resources. The problem is lack of education and awareness of nitric oxide by both physicians and patients and not utilizing the tools and therapies that are readily available.
There are several known risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). Risk factors are conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop CVD and/or increase the chances that their existing disease will get worse. Known and important risk factors for CVD are high blood pressure (hypertension), hyperlipidemia (increased levels of certain lipoproteins and not cholesterol), diabetes and prediabetes, smoking, being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, family history of early heart disease, unhealthy diet, periodontal disease and age (55 or older for women i.e. post-menopause). There are others but these are the primary risk factors.
All the known risk factors all have a common denominator that is responsible for increased risk of CVD. That commonality is loss of nitric oxide (NO) production. It is known that if you can eliminate these known risk factors, your chances of developing CVD are much less and in fact perhaps even eliminated. Therefore, if you can restore the production of nitric oxide, you can offset the reasons these risk factors cause or accelerate heart disease.
Top Ten of How Nitric Oxide Improves Women’s Health — From preventing CVD breast cancer, better sex to more restful sleep to bone health and mental cognition, nitric oxide is the answer.
10. Nitric oxide improves sexual function and orgasms in women. NO is responsible for regulating blood flow to the sex organs. For women to have an orgasm, there must be an increase in vaginal and labial pressure. This pressure is controlled by an increase in blood flow to the clitoris. Without nitric oxide, there cannot be an increase in blood flow to the clitoris and consequently no increase in pressure and no orgasm. Therefore, restoring NO production can improve blood flow to the pelvic region and sex organs and improve lubrication, desire and orgasms.
9. Improve the cardiovascular effects of estrogen. One of the jobs of estrogen is to activate the production of nitric oxide through an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase (NOS). However, when the NOS enzyme becomes dysfunctional, it can no longer produce NO when activated by estrogen. As a result, cardiovascular problems begin to occur from an increase in blood pressure to loss of sexual function. Restoring the function of the enzyme and providing a source of NO will maintain and preserve the cardio-protective effects of estrogen even before menopause.
8. Improve athletic performance and exercise capacity. It is known that moderate physical exercise can prevent heart disease and many other diseases. This is due to the production of NO. This is why exercise is medicine. However, when women do not exercise, they can develop endothelial dysfunction or loss of NO. When you lose the ability to produce NO, you become exercise intolerant and are unable to maintain any exercise regimen. Many people even get winded walking up a flight of stairs. This is due to loss of NO production. Restoring NO production will allow the blood vessels to deliver more oxygen and remove waste products to working muscles and improve exercise capacity.
7. Improves sleep. Nitric oxide is produced within neurons of the brain that signal sleep and sleep patterns. However, when you lose the ability to produce NO, which occurs with age, stress, menopause and the presence of all the other risk factors mentioned above, sleep becomes disturbed. Restoring the production of NO will help restore healthy sleep patterns.
6. Improves healing and recovery from injury. Our own resident stem cells are responsible for repairing injured or worn out cells and tissues. Nitric oxide is the signal that tells stem cells to mobilize and go to the site of injury and differentiate and repair dysfunctional cells and tissue. If your body can’t make NO, then the body loses the signal to repair itself. Restoring the production of NO will allow for much faster healing and quicker recovery from injury.
5. Puts out the fires of inflammation. Inflammation is the root cause of many diseases including CVD and auto-immune disease. Nitric oxide is part of the acute immune and inflammatory response and is necessary for healing and combatting infection. The problem is that during chronic inflammation, NO is overproduced. The local overproduction of NO (either in the gut in auto-immunity or joints of rheumatoid arthritis) causes a feedback inhibition and shuts down NO production in all other tissues. The scientific literature is clear that restoring normal production of NO leads to anti-inflammatory responses. Any chronic inflammatory disease will benefit from restoring normal NO production.
4. Improves mental clarity and cognition. Nitric oxide modulates norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, the major neurotransmitters involved in the neurobiology of major depression. Without enough NO production, these important neurotransmitters are not properly regulated. On top of that, NO controls cerebral blood flow and regulates blood flow to specific regions of the brain when activated. It is known that vascular dementia, or Pre-Alzheimer’s, is due to insufficient blood flow to the prefrontal cortex of the brain due to insufficient NO. Restoring NO production will not only make you feel a better sense of well-being but also improve your memory and cognition.
3. Improve bone strength and prevent bone loss. Bone is constantly being broken down and built back up through cells called osteoclasts and osteoblasts respectively. Nitric oxide controls the activity of both cell types. Post-menopausal women are at risk of developing osteoporosis due to loss of estrogen and loss of nitric oxide production. Restoring the production of NO will enable the osteoblasts and osteoclasts to perform their function and maintain healthy bones.
2. Maintain proper oxygenation and mitochondrial energy production. Nitric oxide controls oxygen delivery and mitochondrial function for cellular energy production. Cancer is a disease that thrives under conditions of low oxygen and inefficient mitochondria. All cancers, including breast cancer, have dysfunctional and uncoupled mitochondria that inefficiently generate ATP or cellular energy. Cancer also lives in a low oxygen or hypoxic environment. Maintaining proper NO production will ensure proper oxygenation of cells and functional/coupled mitochondria that will efficiently generate cellular energy.
1. Prevent the number one killer, heart disease. It is crystal clear that maintaining endothelial function and proper NO production can not only prevent heart disease but reverse and cure existing heart disease. NO prevents the inflammation, oxidative stress and immune dysfunction that occurs in heart disease.
If there is one thing you do, either as a New Years Resolution or as an action item for Heart Health Month, it should be to take steps to improve and restore your nitric oxide production. There is not a more important thing you can do for your own health. Please remember, prevention is much easier and cheaper than treatment. Maintaining proper NO levels addresses the five most common health concerns for women but also addresses the number one killer of men and women worldwide. Invest in your health and act to restore NO production now.