Dr. Lou Ignarro Answers Your Heart Health Questions: Supplements and the Heart
Since launching the Heart Health Initiative just last year, there has been an incredible response. Today, I’d like to answer to some of the questions I’ve received in the comments on HeartHealthInitiative.com and through other places like Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. I love responding to your questions, so let’s get started:
Why is taking supplements so important?
Eating a healthy diet is the best way to get the nutrients you need. But many of us are busy, or frankly, just don’t eat a consistent diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. On top of that, some nutrients are hard to find in food sources alone—like vitamin D, for example—making it difficult to get all of the nutrients a person needs to support health and feel energized throughout the day. Supplements can be a way to support the nutritional needs of your body when used as a complement to a balanced and varied diet.
What first got you interested in heart health?
I enjoy getting asked this question because I get to talk about my family. I was actually first interested in explosives, to be honest. My parents gave me a chemistry set at the age of 8, and as I got older, I wanted to build a small firecracker. Since I didn’t know how to make one, I went to the local library to learn how, and that’s where I learned about the life and work of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and creator of the Nobel Prize. It was later discovered that nitroglycerin, one of the ingredients in dynamite, was useful in relieving angina pain. If you’re not familiar with angina, it’s a condition where there’s a lot of pain in the chest; the cause is inadequate supply of blood to the heart.
Doctors started prescribing angina sufferers nitroglycerin. What interested me about this is that science didn’t know how it worked. I wanted to figure out what it was about nitroglycerin that helped heart patients. I decided to go to graduate school and ended up getting my Ph.D. in pharmacology with a minor in cardiovascular physiology. Now, we know that the nitroglycerin opens up the blood vessels, allowing more blood flow to the heart. I’ve just grown more and more interested since then.
Thanks for these great questions. I’ll be responding to more in the weeks to come, so look for that soon. In the meantime, I’ll be reading your comments here on HeartHealthInitiative.com, and I may even select your question for a future article.