A Look Back at…Nitric Oxide

Originally posted September 29, 2016

nitric oxide moleculeUnlike nitrous oxide, a.k.a. “laughing gas,” nitric oxide it is no laughing matter. Rather, it’s a signaling molecule that our body produces to help the trillions of cells in our body communicate with each other.

Nitric oxide is made by the body’s blood vessel’s lining. When this lining – the endothelium – senses healthy conditions, such as when you exercise, it releases more nitric oxide. Nitric oxide expands the blood vessels, increases blood flow, and decreases plaque and blood clotting.

A healthy release of nitric oxide has been reported to

  • Help memory and behavior.
  • Support the immune system’s fight against pathogenic bacteria and defend against tumors.
  • Regulate blood pressure.
  • Improve sleep quality.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Increase endurance and strength.
  • Aid digestion.

We get plenty of nitric oxide when we’re young, but production falls later in life. Production also drops off when the endothelium senses less than healthy factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and increased stress levels. Free radical damage, inactivity, and poor dietary choices likewise have a negative effect nitric oxide release.

Happily, there are ways to increase nitric oxide and reap its benefits.

  1. Exercise
    When you exercise your muscles require more oxygen, which is supplied by the blood. As your heart pounds, your arteries release nitic oxide into the blood. This opens and relaxes the vessel walls and allows more blood to pass through.

  2. Diet
    Vegetables such beets, beet juice, celery, and dark leafy greens such as kale chard, arugula, and spinach are high in dietary nitrates and nitrites, both of which stimulate the production of nitric oxide. In addition, eating food with color increases the flavonoids in your diet. Flavonoids protect nitric oxide from free radical damage. Generally, it’s best to avoid a diet either too high in fat or carbohydrate. Both can inhibit nitric oxide production.

  3. Nitric oxide supplements
    Traditionally, supplementing for nitric oxide meant taking supplements containing L-arginine. But current research indicates that, as you age, L-arginine is less likely to prove effective.

    Enter new research out of the University of Texas Health Science Center, which has led to a proprietary, beetroot-based, nitric oxide formula that generates authentic nitric oxide while supporting the enzyme that makes nitric oxide in the body.

    The scientist at the helm of this form of supplementation is Dr. Nathan Bryan who co-authored The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution based on his research.

Whether you increase nitric oxide via exercise, diet, supplementation, or a combination of all three, tapping into this overlooked molecule’s power may well help you age with strength and vitality.

Scared of the Dentist? Go for a Brisk Walk!

anxietyPlenty of folks get anxious around dental visits. It’s why we offer sedation options to patients who need them – so fear doesn’t have to stand in the way of getting the care they want or need.

But sedation is hardly the only option.

A new study in the journal Depression and Anxiety found that 30 minutes of walking at a moderate pace right before a dental appointment can significantly reduce stress and anxiety before, during, and after the visit. As Dr Bicuspid reported,

“In the present study, [moderate-intensity exercise] not only led to a significantly stronger reduction of dental anxiety during the anxiogenic challenge (dental procedure), but also to a decreased fear prior to the stressful situation,” the authors wrote. “The additional effect of [moderate-intensity exercise] on anticipatory fear in [dental phobia] is an important clinical finding of the current trial because both aspects of the phobic reaction are important barriers to seek treatment.”

This study monitored patients who scored high on the Dental Anxiety Scale and hadn’t seen a dentist for at least three years. Half of them walked for 30 minutes at a low-intensity treadmill pace; half walked at moderate-intensity. After one week, they switched paces.

Pain intensity was measured using a tool called the visual analog scale (VAS). You can see just how much lower the scores were with moderate-intensity exercise:

You might be wondering how the heck you can fit in 30 minutes of moderate cardio right before your appointment (doctor visits are often squeezed into already jam-packed days). But the good news is that even if you can’t exercise right before your appointment, you may still benefit from incorporating exercise into your daily routine.

For we know that exercise can help reduce anxiety in all settings, not just the dentist’s chair. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the impacts of exercise can be long lasting.

Science has also provided some evidence that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.

And there’s another benefit to exercise: It appears to support good gum health, too. One key study out of Case Western Reserve “found that individuals who exercised, had healthy eating habits and maintained a normal weight were 40 percent less likely to develop periodontitis, a gum infection that can result in loss of teeth.” A contemporary study had even more startling results.

People who never smoked and took regular exercise were about 54% less likely to have periodontitis than people who never smoked but did not engage in physical activity. Rather surprisingly, the prevalence of periodontitis in former smokers was 74% lower for physically active than inactive individuals.

Better oral health and less anxiety plus all the other health benefits of exercise, physical and mental alike? What are you waiting for?

Image by Practical Cures

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At Risk for Prediabetes or Diabetes?

pricked finger

Not sure if you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?  The American Diabetes Association (ADA) wants to help you with its “Alert Day,” slated for March 28.

The ADA has a free, quick, and anonymous risk test available you can use to find if you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes. If you are, their site can help you learn how to decrease your risk. Certainly there are many outlets, that offer good information, tips to help you maintain a healthy weight, make better food choices, incorporate exercise and ways to maintain motivation. To reclaim and maintain your health you’ll need to identify what works best for you. Could be a supportive friend who will take a daily walk with you or a one day a week dinner party with friends interested in healthy cooking–let it be unique to you.

Whether you take a holistic approach or a more traditional one, we believe Alert Day serves a critical function in bringing a much needed awareness to the diabetes epidemic. The CDC estimates that 29 million Americans have diabetes yet only 21 million have been diagnosed. That means that 8.1 million remain undiagnosed.

If you’re concerned that one of them could be you

  1. Schedule a dental exam and hygiene visit.
    The latest science indicates that dentists can play a vital role in diagnosing diabetes. If you have gum disease, science now indicates it could mean you already have diabetes or that it’s immanent.

  2. See another health care provider.
    A health care provider can evaluate and monitor your level of risk. They can also support you in developing a lifestyle that may improve your disease profile. This is critical because diabetes is a disease of chronic inflammation. As such, it affects the entire body. Systematically, it has been linked other diseases of chronic inflammation, such as

    • Cardiovascular disease.
    • Obesity.
    • Stroke.
    • Some cancers.
    • Periodontal disease.
  3. Do your research and make necessary changes.
    There is good information out there. Through the years, we’ve put together our own library on health and wellness. Much of it is geared toward eating better, exercising more, and improving diseases of chronic inflammation. Since the health of your mouth is vital to your overall health, we’ve made it easy to search our blog by topic anytime. Here’s a sampling of entries that can help you learn more about the systematic nature of diabetes. Check them out, because whether it’s  March 28th’s Alert Day, or any other day, we think it makes for some pretty good reading:

    Image by Alisha Vargas

Can Fitness Trackers Help You Reach Your Health Goals?

fitness trackerYou’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. Sit all day, and you’re at an increased risk of breast and colon cancer, have the highest rate of heart attacks, and have a higher risk of stroke, diabetes, bone loss, loss of muscle mass, and weight gain.

And because diseases of inflammation know no boundaries, they have a direct effect on your oral health, as well.

So maybe you’ve already gone out and bought yourself a fitness tracker to monitor your daily activity. Counting steps is a great way to tally the movement in your daily life. But if you were hoping to see that boost in activity translated to, say, a lower number on your bathroom scale, you might be disappointed.

According to a new study in JAMA, fitness trackers appear to miss the mark when it comes to helping you lose weight.

The study involved 471 participants divided into two groups. One calculated their activity manually. The other wore trackers that did the calculation automatically. After 24 months, those who wore the trackers lost less weight than the others – 7.7 pounds vs. 13 pounds.

Lest that seem discouraging, bear in mind that both groups still lost weight. More, the benefits of movement run much deeper than simple weight loss.

Activity trackers are now worn by one out of every six people, many who have experienced extraordinary weight loss and many who experienced other health benefits from moving more. Still, this JAMA study does bring up questions about why the group tracking manually was more successful than those with electronic trackers.

  • Are we are less engaged in actual change when it’s monitored passively?
  • Does seeing an increase in activity justify eating more?
  • Do we expect to see weight loss results from activity alone, without incorporating dietary or behavioral changes?

These questions and more are likely to be addressed in future research. Fitbits alone are currently enrolled in over 200 ongoing studies. But until the definitive answer is in, whether you wear a fitness tracking device or not, it’s largely about taking things into your own hands.

As Eric Chemi pointed out after wearing 10 activity trackers at one time and getting 10 different results, if you’re going to wear a tracking device, it’s probably best to pick one and use it for relative gains toward your health goals. But you don’t have to wear one to meet with success. Reaching the finish line, after all, starts with taking that first step – with movement.

Image by Israel.

Nitric Oxide: No Laughing Matter in the Quest to Age Strong

nitric oxide moleculeUnlike nitrous oxide, a.k.a. “laughing gas,” nitric oxide it is no laughing matter. Rather, it’s a signaling molecule that our body produces to help the trillions of cells in our body communicate with each other.

Nitric oxide is made by the body’s blood vessel’s lining. When this lining – the endothelium – senses healthy conditions, such as when you exercise, it releases more nitric oxide. Nitric oxide expands the blood vessels, increases blood flow, and decreases plaque and blood clotting.

A healthy release of nitric oxide has been reported to

  • Help memory and behavior.
  • Support the immune system’s fight against pathogenic bacteria and defend against tumors.
  • Regulate blood pressure.
  • Improve sleep quality.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Increase endurance and strength.
  • Aid digestion.

We get plenty of nitric oxide when we’re young, but production falls later in life. Production also drops off when the endothelium senses less than healthy factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and increased stress levels. Free radical damage, inactivity, and poor dietary choices likewise have a negative effect nitric oxide release.

Happily, there are ways to increase nitric oxide and reap its benefits.

  1. Exercise
    When you exercise your muscles require more oxygen, which is supplied by the blood. As your heart pounds, your arteries release nitic oxide into the blood. This opens and relaxes the vessel walls and allows more blood to pass through.

  2. Diet
    Vegetables such beets, beet juice, celery, and dark leafy greens such as kale chard, arugula, and spinach are high in dietary nitrates and nitrites, both of which stimulate the production of nitric oxide. In addition, eating food with color increases the flavonoids in your diet. Flavonoids protect nitric oxide from free radical damage. Generally, it’s best to avoid a diet either too high in fat or carbohydrate. Both can inhibit nitric oxide production.

  3. Nitric oxide supplements
    Traditionally, supplementing for nitric oxide meant taking supplements containing L-arginine. But current research indicates that, as you age, L-arginine is less likely to prove effective.

    Enter new research out of the University of Texas Health Science Center, which has led to a proprietary, beetroot-based, nitric oxide formula that generates authentic nitric oxide while supporting the enzyme that makes nitric oxide in the body.

    The scientist at the helm of this form of supplementation is Dr. Nathan Bryan who co-authored The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution based on his research.

Whether you increase nitric oxide via exercise, diet, supplementation, or a combination of all three, tapping into this overlooked molecule’s power may well help you age with strength and vitality.

Is Snoring Keeping You Awake?

insomniaIf you snore – or live with someone who does – it can be more than just irritating. If it’s associated with sleep apnea, it can put you at risk for some serious health problems

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to periodically stop breathing. Each pause can last 10 seconds or more, and in severe cases, these episodes can happen more than 30 times an hour. This can be frightening and fatiguing. More, it deprives your body of an essential nutrient: oxygen.

Fortunately, there are things you can do about it – including, new research suggests, exercise.

This review of the science, published online last month in Respiratory Medicine, analyzed data from eight sleep apnea studies that used exercise as a measure. Subjects – 180 in all, most in their 40s, all diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea – were split between those who exercised, from two to seven days, and those who did not.

According to WaPo,

The studies lasted from two to six months. Among people who exercised, sleep apnea symptoms improved. It became less severe, according to a standardized scale based on the frequency of their breathing interruptions, and the participants reported better sleep overall and less daytime drowsiness. Improvements were similar regardless of the type of exercise people did and were determined to be independent of any weight loss.

Your Dentist Can Help

Improvement of symptoms is one thing, but you still may need additional support to help you get the best of sleep apnea – so it doesn’t get the best of you. And the clunky facial mask of CPAP is hardly your only option.

Oral Appliance Therapy can be a big help – and far more comfortable than CPAP. The best appliances are all designed to hold the lower jaw forward just a bit, enabling an open, unrestricted airway.

They also work to keep the tongue from falling back into a fleshy pile. This structural support helps create more tone in the tissues lining the throat.

If you suspect you, or someone you love may have obstructive sleep apnea, reliable home tests are available. And testing is worth your while. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine holds that as many as 80% to 90% of us with sleep apnea are still undiagnosed.

The benefits of finding the right treatment, and exercise to your routine can be dramatic. With deeper levels of sleep, many people experience lasting health benefits, including

  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Weight loss.
  • Improved insulin sensitivity.
  • Improved productivity.
  • Improved cognitive skills.
  • Reduced risk of depression.
  • Reduced medical expenses.
  • Increased energy and vitality.

But more than that, better sleep might just save your life – or the life of someone you love.

Image by Pauliina Seppälä

From Wolf to Gingerbread Man: Gum Disease & Exercise

Once upon a time, shopping used to involve a fair amount of walking. Now you drive to the strip mall, go to one store, get back in your car and drive across the parking lot to visit a store on the other end, get back in your car and drive … No huffing or puffing, let alone blowing someone’s house in. Living a typically sedentary lifestyle, you’d not have breath enough for something like that anyway.

But do you still look a little wolfish, folks squealing like three little pigs when you open your mouth and show off gnarly teeth and red, swollen gums?

The problem: periodontal (gum) disease – an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. In its early stages, it’s known as gingivitis, which is generally considered reversible. Not so, its more advanced and severe form, periodontitis. At this stage, both the soft tissues around the teeth and eventually the bone beneath them are destroyed.

If your gums are sensitive or bleed after brushing or flossing your teeth, it’s a likely sign of periodontal disease.

Your dentist may also observe what’s called pocketing: extra space between a tooth and the surrounding gum tissue. In a healthy mouth, this space is generally 1 to 3 mm deep. Anything deeper is a sign of disease. Pockets are especially dangerous because these areas trap and breed bacteria, which may then travel through the rest of the body causing various infections.

If periodontitis is left untreated or isn’t sufficiently controlled, tooth loss is the likely result.

runFortunately, there are plenty of simple things you can do to prevent these kinds of problems from cropping up in the first place: eating a healthful, balanced diet; brushing and flossing regularly; exercising…

Yes, that’s right: Exercise.

A number of studies have shown a solid correlation between regular exercise and oral health. For instance, one JADA study analyzed data from over 12,000 adults and found that

subjects who exercised, had healthy eating habits and maintained a normal weight (body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9 kilograms per square meter) were 40 percent less likely to develop periodontitis.

Another study, published in 2010 in the Journal of Periodontology, similarly found that those higher fitness levels and lower Body Mass Index (BMI) scores are less likely to suffer from periodontal disease.

Reading break! Time for three sit-ups!

One!

Two!

Two and a half!

Feel the burn in your teeth!

Flex those teeth muscles!

Okay. So you might not be able to see your teeth getting stronger, but you’re still helping to improve your oral and overall health. As holistic dentist Dr. Vern Erwin has noted,

Physical exercise – or the lack of it – affects more than just our muscles, lungs and heart. Those are just the three areas where we feel it most. While we might get a “runner’s high,” we don’t really feel exercise in our brains, even as exercise has been shown to keep the brain fit and improve thinking. Likewise, we don’t feel exercise in our teeth and gums, but there are, in fact, established links between physical fitness and oral health.

If having good oral health isn’t enough to convince you to exercise, think of all the other benefits, including weight management, increased energy, improved mental health and attitude, stronger heart and lungs, and increased learning retention.

At the metabolic level, “physical activity also helps your body better assimilate nutrients like calcium, a crucial mineral for the remineralization of teeth.” It may also support good intestinal health and immune function.

Instead of being a permanent wolf, you can live out a different fairy tale: Run! Run! As fast as you can… Gum disease can’t catch you, you’re the gingerbread man an exercising human!

Image by andronicusmax, via Flickr