Free radicals are naturally occurring components in the human body. They are produced naturally during metabolism and have important uses for our immune system. However, if the body cannot keep free radical levels low, or production becomes too high, they can instead become a destructive force. In the interests of general health and cardiovascular health, it is important to understand free radicals, what they are, how they work, how they are linked to heart disease, and how to prevent excessive levels in the body.
Resulting from chemical reactions, free radicals are charged atoms or molecules with unpaired electrons. With unpaired electrons, free radicals can then oxidize with other atoms and form new bonds. If this process goes unchecked, or there are not enough antioxidants, the cells of the body can become damaged (including important cell components and DNA) in chain reactions.
One type of oxidation
– known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation – occurs when cholesterol reacts with free radicals. The oxidized LDL cholesterol is now much more reactive, and can pass into the important arteries of the body, eventually causing plaques to form (atherosclerosis). If vessel linings become thick enough to restrict blood flow, muscle and coronary heart disease can develop.
This means that the link of free radical heart damage is a valid link, supported with research in many medical publications. While heart disease can occur due to many underlying symptoms and conditions, free radicals are known to play their part for many people, which makes it important to ensure your body is dealing with free radicals properly. Never forget the importance of low cholesterol levels for heart health.
At current, there is much scientific investigation being conducted into the link between cancer rates and foods that contain antioxidants. Antioxidants may in the future be proven to help lower the risk of cancer.
Fighting Free Radicals with Antioxidants
Antioxidants are called antioxidants for a very good reason – they fight oxidation. Oxidation is exactly what happens when free radicals react with other molecules within the body, but when there are antioxidants in the system, they neutralize with the free radicals instead, taking the load and preventing avalanche damage to important cells and tissue.
Vitamins E and C are the most effective sources of antioxidants you can get, and the body cannot make them so they must be supplied in the diet. Vitamin E dissolves in fat and acts as the main defense against oxidation. Vitamin C dissolves in water, and is known to be particularly effective at preventing free radical build up from smoking. These vitamins can be found in all kinds of fruit and vegetables, but as for all good health practices, all antioxidant containing foods must be taken as part of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
For people with special considerations or concerns, heart health supplements can help to address the issue. Supplements such as ubiquinol are powerful antioxidants that are highly effective at terminating the free radical chain reaction, helping to support a healthy diet and to prevent LDL cholesterol.