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Heart disease is the leading cause of death here in America. If you are concerned about your heart's health, you probably know that you can reduce your risk of developing a heart condition by keeping your weight down, avoiding excessive alcoholic beverages, eating a low-fat diet, and exercising regularly.
These are all great preventative measures. Yet, did you know that if you reduce the number of free radicals that your body stores or creates, you can also significantly reduce your chances of dying from a heart condition?
What Is a "Free Radical"?
When the cells in your body are over-exposed to certain things, like sunlight, cigarette smoke, or X-rays, your cells' atoms and molecules undergo a change. They each gain or lose a negatively-charged electron, turning into ions that are known as free radicals.
Atoms and molecules become unstable when they lose an electron. Thus, the free radicals will tirelessly seek other electrons in an effort to become stable once again. When this happens in bulk, the cells in your bodily tissues can become severely damaged.
Atherosclerosis: One Common Side Effect of Free Radicals
Free radicals are most commonly associated with aging and cancers, but they can spawn a host of other diseases, as well. One of the most dangerous diseases that free radicals can cause is called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is the most common form of heart disease, and on the surface, it is seemingly unrelated to the presence of free radicals. The predominate symptom of atherosclerosis is the development of bumps, called plaques, on your artery walls, which block and inhibit your blood's ability to flow efficiently through your arteries. As these bumps increase in size, they narrow your arteries, causing a back-up of blood. Left untreated, these build-ups can result in strokes, heart attacks, and peripheral vascular disease.
How Free Radicals Cause Atherosclerosis
The plaques that cause atherosclerosis are constructed predominately of fats and lipids, cell waste, calcium, and cholesterol. So, how is atherosclerosis related to the presence of free radicals in your body?
One of the primary contributors to atherosclerosis plaque development is the over-abundance of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol--the "bad" cholesterol--in your bloodstream. When a free radical victimizes a low-density lipoprotein for its missing electron, this spells disaster for the lipoprotein. The low-density lipoprotein, now itself missing an electron, gravitates to the arterial wall; when numerous affected lipoproteins follow suit, a blocking plaque develops and atherosclerosis is at hand.
What You Can Do
As you can see, the most effective heart disease preventative measures are not always enough to prevent atherosclerosis, the most prevalent form. Even if you have high cholesterol, you can limit the formation of atherosclerosis plaques by avoiding things that increase your free radical levels. For example, in addition to eating right, add antioxidant-rich foods to your diet. If you quit smoking, try to limit your exposure to second-hand smoke. Look out for sneaky free radical-producing activities, like teeth whitening products and charred foods. For more information, talk to an expert like ICE, Institute of Cardiovascular Excellence.Share