High blood pressure and cardiovascular health are taking a toll on the African American community. In fact, these two diseases are just the tip of the health problems confronting African Americans. Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, stroke and sickle cell disease are at an all time high. To address these health issues I’ve broken this article into three parts: The Bad News, Several Underlining Causes, and Steps to Decrease Your Risk!
The Bad News!
We might as well get the bad news out of the way first. It is important for you to understand the depth of the health problems confronting the African American community. Below is a list of the ailments that directly affect our community:
That’s quite a list of ailments affecting our community. If you look closely at each health issue you will see that almost all of them have a common denominator. That common denominator is your cardiovascular system. Eight of these health issues are directly affected by the health of your cardiovascular system. And, the ninth issue of overweight/obesity directly impacts the health of your cardiovascular system.
The key to reducing your health risk from the majority of the health challenges listed above is to make sure your cardiovascular system is as healthy as possible. We will directly address this in the final section of this article but before we do you need to understand some of the underlining causes of high blood pressure and poor cardiovascular health in the African American community.
Several Underlining Causes!
Within your cardiovascular system there is one particular essential amino acid, one critical signaling molecule, one critical cellular structure and one detrimental enzyme that directly impact your cardiovascular system and its overall health. They are:
The first three keys of L-arginine, nitric oxide and endothelial cells are interrelated so we will examine them first as a whole. The endothelial cells form the interior lining of all your blood vessels. These cells ultimately determine your cardiovascular health. One function of these endothelial cells is to take the essential amino acid L-arginine and convert it into the signaling molecule nitric oxide. Very simply, you couldn’t live without nitric oxide!
Nitric oxide is the master signaling molecule of the cardiovascular system. It regulates blood vessel tone and flexibility. Its production is completely dependent upon the health of your endothelial cells and an adequate supply of the essential amino acid L-arginine. Here are just some of the benefits of nitric oxide:
Nitric oxide is literally involved in all cells to help keep you fit and healthy. The health of your endothelial cells and the amount of L-arginine will directly affect your nitric oxide production. Your diet directly affects your L-arginine intake. Your endothelial cells are damaged by:
This interrelationship between the endothelial cells, L-arginine, and nitric oxide production is common for all races. What is not common is a genetic polymorphism inherent to the African American population. This genetic polymorphism causes African Americans to have higher levels of an enzyme called arginase in their blood stream. Arginase destroys L-arginine which is the main ingredient for creating nitric oxide in the body.
On the front end, the enzyme arginase destroys L-arginine which interferes with the production of nitric oxide. On the back end, the health of your endothelial cells determines how much of the remaining L-arginine can be converted to nitric oxide. This two-fold interference in the production of nitric oxide creates the significant health issues we discussed at the beginning of this article!
Steps to Decrease Your Risk!
Given the above information there are two key pathways to reducing your risk for high blood pressure and all the cardiovascular ailments we examined at the beginning of this article. The first pathway is to protect and heal your endothelial cells that line your blood vessels. This will require several keys steps.
The first key step is to monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure damages your endothelial cells. If you do not know what your blood pressure is then you need to go to your doctor’s office, local pharmacy or health clinic and get your blood pressure taken. If you have high blood pressure, then you need to take steps to bring it back into a normal range. This is your first and most important step. It is so important that the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program was established to exclusively address the issue of high blood pressure on a national level. For more information on participating barbershops, go to www.blackbarbershop.org.
High sugar and high cholesterol levels also damage your endothelial cells. Your diet is extremely important for both of these areas. One simple but highly effective step to stabilize your blood sugar levels and help your body naturally reduce its cholesterol levels is to increase your fiber intake. Including dry beans or legumes into your diet is a quick and delicious way to increase your fiber intake. In fact studies have shown that consuming dry beans four times or more per week, compared with less than once a week, lowered the risk of heart disease by 22 percent.
Stop smoking! Smoking damages your endothelial cells. This is a nasty habit that is extremely hard to break. Part of the process is having a motivation greater than the habit. If your very life isn’t motivation enough, then maybe for the men your sex life is. Your endothelial cells control your nitric oxide production. Your nitric oxide levels control an erection. No nitric oxide no sex! Every puff on your cigarette is destroying your endothelial cells which lowers your nitric oxide level and reduces your chances of having good sex.
In addition to protecting and healing your endothelial cells, you need to get an adequate intake of the essential amino acid L-arginine which is found in foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, and other protein sources. Most people take in enough L-arginine to meet basic bodily needs. However, when your diet is poor and/or your stress level is high, then this essential amino acid will be lacking. Couple this with the enzyme arginase that destroys L-arginine, and you have the potential to increase your risk for cardiovascular health issues.
You could increase your protein intake but this will add calories to your diet and potential pounds to your body. Because of this L-arginine supplements have populated the shelves of many health food store, pharmacies and websites. Now, before you go out and start buying L-arginine supplements you need to be aware of the dark side of this amino acid. Please read my article “Endothelial Cells, Nitric Oxide & Your Cardiovascular System!” For those searching for a proven and effective L-arginine supplement, I recommend ProArgi-9 Plus from Synergy WorldWide.
You have the power to directly improve your cardiovascular health and significantly reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. For those with sickle cell anemia, you can help to reduce your symptoms. It all centers on helping your endothelial cells function optimally, with an above average supply of L-arginine, so that nitric oxide is properly produced. Nitric oxide is a primary gateway to improved cardiovascular and blood pressure health in the African American community.
Until next time, may we both age youthfully!
P.S. As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the following Blood Pressure & Cardiovascular Health articles:
The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contained in this website and posted articles has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.