Heart disease: Doctor explains how to reduce risk
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Heart disease or coronary heart disease (CHD) is a major cause of death both in the UK and worldwide. Heart disease is caused by the blood supply being blocked or slowed by a build-up of fatty tissues in the arteries. You can help improve your heart function and significantly lower your risk of heart-related diseases by drinking beetroot juice.
A study in Canada and published in the journal Heart and Circulatory Physiology has shown that drinking beetroot juice regularly can reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
Researchers at University of Guelph in Canada found that dietary nitrate, a compound found in beetroot juice that dilates blood vessels to decrease blood pressure, may reduce overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system that occurs with heart disease.
Activation of the sympathetic nervous system includes elevated heart rate and blood pressure and blood vessel constriction.
Sympathetic nerve activity (sympathetic outflow) also increases with some forms of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and heart failure.
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The study involved 20 young adults who participated in two separate testing visits in which they blindly received either a nitrate supplement or a placebo.
Measurements were recorded at the beginning of the visit and then again after the volunteers drank nitrate-rich beetroot juice or a placebo and rested on their backs for three hours.
MSNA burst rate, denoting the frequency of nerve activity, was lower when the volunteers drank beetroot juice compared to when they drank the placebo.
“These results provide proof-of-concept that dietary nitrate supplementation can modulate central sympathetic outflow and suggest that the established cardiovascular benefits of dietary nitrate are likely to involve a neural contribution,” said the study authors.
Nitrates help to dilate the arteries and the veins not only in the heart but also elsewhere in the body.
By dilating the blood vessels of the heart, nitrates can reduce the stress on the heart by improving blood flow to the heart muscle.
This action also helps to reduce angina symptoms.
Beetroots are rich in dietary nitrates, which your body can convert to nitric oxide.
According to one study in 38 adults, consuming a beetroot juice supplement increased nitric oxide levels by 21 percent after just 45 minutes.
Similarly, another study showed that drinking 3.4 ounces (100 ml) of beetroot juice significantly increased nitric oxide levels in both men and women.
Thanks to their rich content of dietary nitrates, beets have been linked to a number of health benefits, including improved cognitive function, enhanced athletic performance and lower blood pressure levels.
Early signs of heart failure include:
- Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort (angina)
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
- Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back.
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