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Exercise protects the heart via nitric oxide

In mice that lack the eNOS enzyme, exercise did not protect the heart from a coronary blockage.

It’s well known that exercise is good for the heart and that it helps protect the heart from injury during a heart attack.

What was not known was how, until Emory researchers recently found that the nitric oxide produced during exercise is a key factor in this cardiovascular benefit.

Nitric oxide, a short-lived gas generated within the body, turns on chemical pathways that relax blood vessels to increase blood flow. Both the chemicals nitrite and nitrosothiol, where nitric oxide is attached to proteins, appear to act as convertible reservoirs for nitric oxide in situations where the body needs it, such as when a lack of blood flow or oxygen occurs. The team’s findings strengthen the case for nitrite and nitrosothiols as possible protectants from damage from a heart attack, says Emory thoracic surgery researcher David Lefer.

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