Exclusive interview with Louis Ignarro, PhD
Heart health expert Louis Ignarro, PhD has a tremendous amount of practical advice about how each of us can look after our hearts, so we’ve invited him to share some of his knowledge with us over the next few weeks. If you have any questions then let us know in the comments section below and we’ll make sure to pass them on.
Hi Louis, thanks for joining us today. It’s a pleasure and an honor to welcome you to our Herbalife offices. We all know you as an eminent heart health expert but can you tell us a little about your background?
Louis Ignarro: Of course. I grew up in Long Beach, NY and was always active. I enjoyed swimming in the ocean and one-on-one stickball but I always had an interest in understanding how things worked and delighted in constructing and deconstructing things – if I could get them to work again then even better!
In time, I turned to chemistry and, eventually, pharmacology and earned my PhD from the University of Minnesota. I focused on how neurons of the sympathetic nervous system innervate the heart and produce and release norepinephrine and my investigations brushed on physiology, biochemistry and anatomy.
Wow. What first interested you about heart health?
Louis Ignarro: In Medical/Graduate School, the physiology of the cardiovascular system fascinated me more than anything else. I decided to specialize my studies in this field: my curiosity and passion were riveted.
And that led to your greatest achievement?
Louis Ignarro: Yes, the discovery of the presence, production and cardiovascular protective actions of nitric oxide (NO) in the body. My research was the first to show that nitric oxide regulates blood pressure, blood flow and blood coagulation.
You made it your mission to promote endothelial wellness around the globe. Can you tell us about that?
Louis Ignarro: My mission is to promote endothelial wellness. The endothelium is the only cellular network in the entire cardiovascular system that is capable of producing nitric oxide, and so it is essential to maintain a healthy endothelium. It’s a no-brainer.
Just in case not everyone knows, what is ‘endothelial wellness’ – and why is it important?
Louis Ignarro: Endothelial wellness signifies keeping your vascular endothelial cells healthy and active at all times; every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year until you have completed your long and healthy life. The endothelium is a single layer of cells that line the inner surface of all arteries and veins (so they’re in contact with the blood). These endothelial cells are the “only” cells in the cardiovascular system capable of producing nitric oxide. The nitric oxide is absolutely required to maintain normal blood pressure, blood flow and blood coagulation on a second-by-second basis.
Can you give us advice on how to look after our hearts – for instance what do you do?
Louis Ignarro: I look after my heart by adopting the lifestyle that best suits the function and longevity of my heart. These include a healthy diet and a structured aerobic exercise program with specific nutrients that promote heart health.
That sounds like something we can all do. If you could only pass on one tip what would it be?
Louis Ignarro: Take good care of your heart, you have only one and it will determine how long you live.
A healthy lifestyle is the message of this blog – how do you implement that concept in your day-to-day life?
Louis Ignarro: A healthy, active lifestyle is my key to longevity. I have learned to take care of me first, and my work second. I practice healthy living while at home and during my busy travels for work. Each morning is started by a healthy and nutritious breakfast plus engaging in exercise whether it be running, fast walking, cycling or at the gym.
Do you have a role model who epitomizes a healthy, active life?
Louis Ignarro: My role model is my father. He was very active and a hard working carpenter, who worked 6 long days a week. He always followed a strict healthy diet, and exercise was built into his profession.
One more question, what do you wish you had known sooner?
Louis Ignarro: If I could do it all over again, I would do it all the same way EXCEPT that I would have started to advocate healthy lifestyle publicly much earlier in my career…
Thanks Louis. Talking with you is always informative and we love hearing that you walk the walk and live with such an awareness of heart health in everything you do.
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