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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the U.S. If you or someone you know has CVD, or has high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, or any of the other factors that could lead to CVD, you have probably been told to exercise, reduce stress levels and avoid certain foods like sugar, white flours and junk food. Or you may have been prescribed drugs like statins. However, there are certain foods — known as ‘functional foods’ — that, in addition to the nutrients they supply, also specifically promote health or prevent disease in a certain part of the body. In the case of CVD, you still want to exercise and eat well, but there are also functional foods that may help prevent it, and may even help you avoid drugs.

Let’s just take one of the CVD risk factors: hypertension, high blood pressure.

Normal blood pressure is considered 120/80 or below. High blood pressure starts at 140/90. Between those you have a rating called prehypertension, which basically means that if you don’t do something to lower your blood pressure you could end up with full-blown hypertension — something you really want to avoid.

The risk level is much higher with hypertension than prehypertension, so getting your blood pressure under control now is a smart health move.

What functional foods help prehypertension? According to a recent study conducted at Florida State University, watermelon might be just what you need.

The study, though small, is very promising and is the first on human subjects. While the participants didn’t actually eat watermelon, they were given six grams daily of the amino acid L-citrulline/L-arginine from watermelon extract for six weeks. There were four men and five women, ages 51 to 57, and each were prehypertensive. All participants had positive results: improved arterial function and lowered blood pressure.

The real ‘active” ingredient, the one that’s making the difference, is the amino acid L-arginine. However, L-arginine taken on its own can be hard on the gastrointestinal system. The better option is another amino acid, L-citrulline, which converts to L-arginine once in the body.

Watermelon is loaded with L-citrulline, is well tolerated, has no side effects, and provides the added benefits of Vitamins A, B6 and C along with fiber, potassium and lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.

If you’re looking for natural solutions to protect your heart, give watermelon extract a try. It is available at local health food stores and online!

SOURCE: Science Daily: