If you've ever seen someone pop a nitroglycerin pill under their tongue — for real or on film — you know that it appears to provide immediate relief from scary-looking symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath. In people suffering from angina, a temporary lack of blood flow to the heart, this treatment instantly improves blood flow and alleviates those symptoms. While people with coronary artery disease may need a pill, you can have a healthier heart just by breathing through your nose.
According to the ClevelandHeartLab®, taking long, deep breaths through your nose helps release nitric oxide, a chemical that has been shown to:
- Expand blood vessels
- Increase blood flow
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce stress and produce an all-over calming effect
- Prevent the buildup of artery-clogging plaque
Who wouldn't want more of that? Take a deep nose-breath. Again. One more. There you go. Heart-healthier already.
Nitric oxide for a healthier heart: it's not just for nose breathers.
Nitric oxide is the basis for the use of nitroglycerin in treating angina and has been prescribed to heart patients as early as 1876. It wasn't until a century later, however, that scientists discovered how nitric oxide actually works to dilate vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. Those clever scientists received the 1978 Nobel Prize for their research, and rightly so. But we'd like to shake the hand of whoever discovered that we can make our own.
More easy ways to make your own nitric oxide:
- Practice yoga, meditation or other stress-relieving techniques (notice deep breathing is a central component)
- Incorporate regular exercise into your lifestyle (commit to moving a little more every day)
- Fill your plate with fruits and veggies, make your grains whole, your meats lean and your chocolate dark (check out The 10 Best Foods to Boost Nitric Oxide Levels)
- Take our free Heart Risk Assessment (heart disease risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure/cholesterol/blood sugar, excess weight and others suppress the body's production of nitric oxide)
When to go to the ER with chest pain.
Heart attack is still the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the U.S. And in fact, the American Heart Association reported in November 2018 that heart attacks are becoming more common in younger people — especially women. That's why it's important to know your heart disease risks at any age and take steps to get them under control.
What we think of as a classic presentation of a heart attack (refer back to paragraph one) is rarely seen, said David Cameron, an emergency medicine physician with Medical City Healthcare. While chest pain could be a sign of something else, if you're not sure, it's better to get checked at an ER.
"The sooner you come to see us with chest pain, the more we can help you," said Dr. Cameron. "You may have a minor ache or pressure in the chest that's not actually pain. That may be your heart talking to you."
Other heart attack signs may include:
- Achiness in arm or jaw
- Shortness of breath
Always call 911 if you are having a medical emergency. It's also a good idea to learn hands-free CPR.
For more ways to have a healthier heart, read our other heart health blogs.
When it might be a heart attack, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.