The Dangers of Oxidative Stress
What do free radicals and antioxidants have in common?
Both are related to oxidative stress…one of the most destructive processes that can take place within the human body.
Free radicals are simply molecules that have unpaired electrons. These “solo electrons” are problematic because they cause free radicals to be extremely reactive. And this reactivity matters because it causes damage to otherwise healthy cells.
Antioxidants, on the other hand, prevent this damage from occurring by donating electrons to free radicals. This process of electron donation (which effectively pairs-up any unpaired electrons) neutralizes free radicals, thereby keeping them from reacting within your body’s cells.
Now that we know how free radicals and antioxidants relate to one another, we can define oxidative stress:
Simply put, oxidative stress (and the cell damage it causes) occurs when free radicals outnumber antioxidants.
Following are some forms of cell damage that can occur as a result of oxidative stress:
- Lipid Peroxidation
Lipids are inherent to the structure of healthy cellular membranes. However, these essential fats can be broken down when they encounter free radicals (a process known as lipid peroxidation). Additionally, the byproducts of lipid peroxidation can be toxic and can cause additional oxidative stress.
- Protein Damage
Oxidative stress disrupts the healthy function of amino acids that are found within the proteins throughout your body. This can negatively impact everything from how enzymes function to how various receptors work in the body.
- DNA Damage
DNA controls virtually every function within the body. And oxidative stress can damage DNA. If damaged DNA isn’t repaired, the result can be genetic instability, which increases the risk for developing diseases like cancer.
Oxidative stress can activate inflammatory pathways within the body. Meanwhile, activation of these inflammatory pathways can result in more oxidative stress, which can result in more inflammation, and so on. We refer to this vicious cycle as chronic inflammation, which can cause autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative conditions.
- Mitochondrial Damage
Mitochondria are organelles found within cells that are responsible for producing cellular energy. Unfortunately, the very function for which mitochondria are so important means they are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress. When mitochondria are damaged, energy production and cellular function are compromised.
Diseases Caused by Oxidative Stress
Cell damage caused by oxidative stress can result in several age-related conditions, including:
- Neurodegenerative Diseases
Oxidative stress has been linked to neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS. Research indicates that free radicals can damage neurons and cause a build-up of toxic proteins within the brain.
- Cardiovascular Disease
One of the key risk factors for atherosclerosis (or hardening of the arteries) is oxidative stress. In fact, plaque development on artery walls occurs in part due to the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
DNA damage from oxidative stress can increase the incidence of cancer-causing cell mutations. Free radicals can also promote the growth of cancer cells once they are established.
The cumulative damage caused by free radicals is thought to contribute to age-related tissue and organ decline.
Minimize Oxidative Stress
The antidote to free radicals is more antioxidants. Fortunately, there are easy ways to increase your body’s supply of antioxidants:
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidants, including lots of fresh fruit and colorful vegetables
- Avoid tobacco and environmental toxins
- Minimize alcohol consumption
- Exercise regularly
- Manage stress as much as possible
Like aging in general, oxidative stress can be limited or prevented. And Renew Youth is here to help. Call us at 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to set up your free 30-minute consultation.