Age of Your Arteries

Dr. Kenneth Cooper 2The Age of Your Arteries

This issue of endothelial cell health and function is as important to athletes as it is to the general public. Your endothelium lines all of your cardiovascular system. It regulates most of your cardiovascular health.

Back in the 1970s Dr. Kenneth Cooper started the “Aerobic Revolution” and designed some of the standards for measuring athletic performance. Improve heart strength and function coupled with improved aerobic capacity and blood flow could account for most of the gains in athletic performance. However, there was a missing ingredient that Dr. Cooper and others couldn’t put their finger on.

When the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to 3 American research for their discovery on how the endothelium converts the semi-essential amino acid L-arginine into nitric oxide – as a signaling molecule, there was an explosion of research in this area. This research explosion helped to find the “missing ingredient for improved athletic performance.”

Nitric OxideThat missing ingredient was and is the fact that every time your blood pulses across the endothelium it creates a sheering force that stimulates the endothelium to release a puff of nitric oxide into the blood stream. This means that has you increase your heart rate through activity you increase the ability of the endothelium to release nitric oxide into the bloodstream. This increases vasodilation for improved blood flow and improves the body’s ability to delivery oxygen. Improved oxygenation helps you work at a higher aerobic capacity with less lactic acid accumulation.

As the image shows below, your endothelium loses its ability to properly product nitric oxide as you age. High blood glucose levels, LDL cholesterol, nicotine, and high blood pressure all cause damage to your endothelium. This damage results in inflammation leading to the start of plaque formations that can increase over time. This cumulative damage lessens the ability of the endothelium to produce proper levels of nitric oxide.

The Age of Your Arteries

In your 20’s your arteries are generally healthy and clear of obvious disease, though research shows the disease and aging process has already begun. Harm from tobacco smoke, cholesterol and sedentary lifestyle can be accumulating.

In your 30’s and 40’s, accumulation of fatty deposits called plaque typically begins to accelerate in men, women are generally protected in their major arteries until after menopause though disease may begin in smaller vessels. Cholesterol, tobacco smoke, high blood pressure and high blood sugar all cause persistent injury to the inner lining of the artery.

In your 50’s, the assault on your endothelium continues while the vessel wall becomes stiffer and more fibrous. High blood pressure creates damage apart from plaque build-up that makes arteries less elastic or compliant, increasing the workload on the heart. Injured tissue becomes scarred and calcified. For women, in which the disease tends to develop 10 to 15 years later than for men, the accumulation of plaque begins to accelerate.

In your 60’s and beyond, the aging process contributes to the attack on the lining of the arteries. Left unchecked, plaques can rupture or erode, leading to blood clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

EndotheliumHowever, resent research in human study groups are showing that when properly nourished the endothelium can produce higher levels of nitric oxide. High levels of nitric oxide can initiate reparative mechanisms that can heal damage done to the endothelium. This brings more surface volume back into play leading to more and more healthy endothelial cells for improved nitric oxide production.

This improves circulation and in turn can help improve athletic performance.

Learning how to properly nourish your endothelium with the ingredients it needs to optimize its ability to create nitric oxide can have a true health benefit. Coupled with a proper exercise program and you can really make significant improvements in human and athletic performance.

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