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More on Heart Benefits From Garlic

Easing the Pressure

Research suggests that garlic can help make small improvements in blood pressure by increasing the blood flow to the capillaries, which are the tiniest blood vessels. The chemicals in garlic achieve this by causing the capillary walls to open wider and reducing the ability of blood platelets to stick together and cause blockages.

Reductions are small -- 10 mmHg (millimeters of mercury, the unit of measurement for blood pressure) or less. This means if your blood pressure is 130 over 90 mmHg, garlic might help lower it to 120 over 80 mmHg. That's a slight improvement, but, along with some simple lifestyle adjustments, such as getting more exercise, garlic might help move your
blood pressure out of the danger zone.

Preliminary studies indicate that garlic may also increase the production of nitric oxide. This chemical compound is produced in the lining of blood vessels, and it helps the vessels relax and allow blood to flow more freely.

Research published in August 2005 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that some of the sulfur-rich compounds in garlic help the blood vessels relax and enlarge, lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow throughout the body.

The Bottom Line: Garlic and Heart Health

Garlic seems to deserve a spot on the battlefield in the fight against
heart disease. Even if its lipid-lowering abilities are less extensive than once thought, it appears that garlic's antioxidant ability helps protect arteries from plaque formation and eventual blockage. Because garlic also appears to increase the nitric oxide in vessels and lower your blood pressure, it becomes even more valuable.

Cholesterol and oxidation aren't the only bad guys that garlic keeps out of the body. On the next page you'll learn how nature's bouncer fights off viruses, as well.

A Guide To Heart-Disease Terms
With all this talk about heart disease, you might get confused by some of the terms we've used. Here's a handy glossary you can refer to:
  • Antioxidant: A substance that inhibits oxidation, a natural body process that causes cell damage. The body uses vitamins C and E as antioxidants. It also uses the minerals selenium and manganese to build potent antioxidant defense mechanisms, such as glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase, to protect your cells.

  • Arteriosclerosis: A disease in which the arteries have thickened, hardened, and lost their elasticity, resulting in impaired blood flow. It develops in people who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other conditions or as the result of aging. It is also known as "hardening of the arteries."

  • Atherosclerosis: A type of arteriosclerosis characterized by plaque deposits on the interior walls of arteries.

  • Fibrinolysis: The body's natural process of breaking up blood clots.

  • Homocysteine: A sulfur-containing amino acid in the blood that has been linked to an increased risk of premature coronary artery disease, stroke, and blood clots in the veins.

  • Hypercholesterolemia: High levels of cholesterol in the blood.

  • Hyperlipidemia: High levels of lipids in the blood.

  • Lipids: Another word for fats. Includes all types of cholesterol and triglycerides.

  • Nitric oxide: In the human body, nitric oxide plays a role in oxygen transport, nerve transmission, and other functions. It also helps relax the lining of the blood vessels.

  • Oxidation: A chemical reaction between oxygen and another substance, sometimes resulting in damage to the substance. For instance, oxidized cholesterol damages the lining of arteries.

Want more information about garlic? Try:

  • Vegetable Recipes: Find delicious recipes that feature garlic.
  • Nutrition: Find out how garlic fits in with your overall nutrition plans.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.