We are now into the hot, dog days of summer, even in New England. And risk of heart attack, kidney stones and other ailments spikes for men and women in such extreme heat. Fortunately, new research shows a simple vitamin can serve as an internal “air conditioner” of sorts. And it all starts with your blood vessels.
What B can do for you…
As I wrote in the March 2015 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, studies show B vitamins help prevent blood vessel damage. Which may stop atherosclerosis and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, raising your B vitamin levels and managing your blood pressure are two of the most important steps you can take to dramatically reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
B vitamins affect blood vessels in other ways as well. For instance, you probably know about the vascular flushing that can occur in your chest and neck when you take the B vitamin niacin. This flushing is completely harmless, but doctors use it as an excuse to give patients dangerous and useless statin drugs instead of natural niacin. Even though study after study shows niacin balances cholesterol naturally.
Overall, B vitamins help your blood vessels stay healthy. And, of course, you need healthy vessels to keep your blood flowing smoothly. Which leads me to the new study.
Natural heat buster just as good as pricey pharmaceuticals
To help stay cool, your body shifts blood circulation closer to the skin, where it can release more heat. The body shifts the circulation by producing nitric oxide and dilating the blood vessels. (That’s why nitroglycerin — a form of nitric oxide — has been a standby for nearly two centuries for dilating the coronary arteries and increasing blood flow to the heart.)
But older adults have a harder time producing nitric oxide. Which gives them a greater chance of suffering heart attacks and strokes when the temperature rises.
The researchers behind this new study had previously discovered that a substance called tetrahydrobiopterin, or BH4, helps produce nitric oxide.
Turns out, the B vitamin folic acid helps produce BH4. So the researchers decided to find out if giving people extra folic acid would improve their blood flow and help them fight heat-related strokes and heart attacks.
They did two tests on 11 older people with an average age of 71, and 11 younger people with an average age of 22. First, they put folic acid or placebo patches on the participants’ skin. Then, they took the patches off and put the people in a type of wetsuit to control their skin temperatures. And they gave them either a placebo or 5 mg of folic acid a day for six weeks.
The researchers discovered that both of the tests increased the blood vessel dilation of the older participants, but not the younger ones. And the folic acid supplements were just as effective as the patches. Plus, the researchers found that folic acid showed the same effect on nitric oxide production as an expensive pharmaceutical drug.
Which just goes to show that we can almost always count on natural approaches like B vitamin supplementation for safe, simple and affordable solutions to staying healthy.
I suggest you beat the heat in the “dog days” of summer by taking a high-quality B vitamin supplement. One that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid.
And don’t stop when the temperature drops. A lifelong regimen of B supplementation can do wonders for your circulation, heart and blood vessels.
“Cellular and molecular mechanisms of statins: an update on pleiotropic effects.” Clin Sci (Lond). 2015 Jul 1;129(2):93-105.