Trying to improve your heart health? In addition to a healthy diet and exercise, if you’re looking for a supplement that could potentially decrease blood pressure and improve blood flow, a little-known amino acid called L-arginine could be a huge help.
What is L-arginine?
At its simplest, L-arginine is an amino acid, which is one of the building blocks that forms proteins. Once it’s consumed, the body converts it to nitric oxide, which is a critical compound for widening blood vessels and bettering blood flow. Nitric oxide is also key for kickstarting other chemical reactions in the body, like producing insulin and growth hormone. Because of its connection to blood vessel dilation, early research has shown that L’arginine can be effective at lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow, and reducing inflammation.
Additionally, while L’arginine itself may not directly stop a heart attack, it can be part of a regimen that lessens the underlying causes and symptoms of a cardiovascular event thanks to its many its blood-related benefits.
L-arginine has also gotten attention for its potential to treat erectile dysfunction in men, though its most effective when combined with other supplements instead of working solely on its own.
What are the side effects?
Side effects of taking it are generally mild, with some people experiencing bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and headaches. Dosages tend to range from two to six grams of supplemental L’arginine per day for around three to four weeks at a time before taking a break from it. (We recommend that you speak to a medical professional about the best timeline for you.)
Scientists caution those who’ve had a recent heart attack, as well as anyone with a history of asthma, not to use L’arginine since it could potentially worsen the body’s natural responses.
How should you take it?
You can get L’arginine in your diet by consuming red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. On top of that, there are oral supplements you can include to increase your intake. Just make sure you check in with a doctor beforehand, as you should with any other supplement!
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This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.