Oxidative stress is known to be involved in several health conditions. But what is oxidative stress, and how does this factor affect health? Please read this article to learn everything you need to know about oxidative stress.
What Is Oxidative Stress and How Does This Factor Affect Health?
What Is Oxidative Stress?
Oxidative stress refers to an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants within the body, leading to cell and tissue damage. In other words, oxidative stress occurs when the formation of the damaging free radicals dominates the capability of antioxidants to neutralize them.
Oxidative stress might result from the body’s natural immune response. This type of oxidative stress might cause temporary and mild inflammation that subsides after the immune system resolves an infection or corrects an injury.
Nevertheless, long-term uncontrolled oxidative stress might accelerate the aging process and contribute to the induction of a range of chronic and degenerative conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological disease. In the next part of this article, we will discuss the detrimental effects of oxidative stress in detail.
What Are Free Radicals and Antioxidants?
Please read this section before learning how oxidative stress can affect the body if you wish to learn more about free radicals and antioxidants.
Free radicals are molecules with only a single unpaired electron. The unpaired electron is highly reactive and tends to bond with another free electron, resulting in another free radical. As a result, a chain reaction of free radicals might occur, leading to a cascade of increasingly harmful events.
Free radicals are produced due to the metabolic process, which combines oxygen and glucose to generate carbon dioxide, water, and energy in the form of ATP. External substances, such as cigarette smoke or pollutants in the environment, can also cause the body to produce free radicals.
Antioxidants are substances that donate an electron to free radicals, neutralizing them and reducing the effects of oxidative stress on people’s health. Although antioxidants can be created naturally in the body, many vital antioxidants are present in fruits and vegetables in the form of vitamins and minerals that the body cannot produce on its own. Examples of antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E.
How Does Oxidative Stress Affect the Body?
As mentioned above, long-term uncontrolled oxidative stress causes detrimental effects to the body. It can contribute to accelerated aging and play a role in developing various conditions. The most prevalent conditions due to oxidative stress include:
Accelerated Aging Process and Oxidative Stress
Aging is a natural process in which tissues and organs experience a progressive decline over time. Gemma et al. and their work “Oxidative Stress and the Aging Brain: From Theory to Prevention” have proposed the free radical theory of aging as one of the most practical and acceptable explanations for aging.
The free radical theory of aging, commonly known as the oxidative stress theory of aging, is based on the structural damage-based assumption that oxidative damage causes age-related functional decline. According to this hypothesis, aging and associated disorders result from free radical-induced damage and the inability of antioxidant defenses to counteract it.
Cancer and Oxidative Stress
According to a review, oxidative stress causes DNA damage, which is one of the triggers that leads to cancer formation. Specifically, cancer can be driven by chromosomal abnormalities and oncogene activation. These cancer-driving factors can be determined by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can also trigger modifications against DNA structure. Further, oxidative stress due to lifestyle reasons such as tobacco smoking and environmental pollutants contributes to the onset of tumors and cancer progression.
Cardiovascular Disease and Oxidative Stress
According to the same review, oxidative stress is either the primary or secondary cause of many cardiovascular illnesses. Oxidative stress is primarily responsible for artery hardening and narrowing. Oxidative stress is also linked to hypertension, ischemia, cardiac hypertrophy, cardiomyopathy, and congestive heart failure.
Neurological Disease and Oxidative Stress
The review also shows that oxidative stress is linked to a number of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and memory loss. Free radical activity produces β-amyloid, a toxic peptide commonly found in Alzheimer’s disease patients’ brains. This toxic peptide is believed to be partially responsible for neurodegeneration during the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Manage and Prevent Oxidative Stress
Please remember that the body requires a healthy balance of free radicals and antioxidants; too much or too little of either can lead to health problems. The objective is to balance free radicals and antioxidants by suppressing excess free radical production or increasing antioxidants in the body.
Lifestyle modifications and a healthy diet may help reduce oxidative stress in the body. Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the known strategies for reducing oxidative stress. According to a review, excess fat cells might trigger free radical production in immune cells. Therefore, a healthy body weight without excess fat might help avoid the extra number of free radicals.
Another strategy to manage and prevent oxidative stress is to consume a well-balanced diet rich in antioxidants. Antioxidant-rich foods include broccoli, spinach, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, asparagus, avocados, radish, lettuce, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and kale. Limiting processed foods, exceptionally those high in sugars and fats, may also be helpful.
Although oxidative stress may affect anyone and cause several harmful effects, you are the one who decides whether or not to fight it. By adopting lifestyle choices involving diet, exercise, and environment, you can keep your body balanced and prevent damage and disease.
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