Antioxidants, Free Radicals, Oxidative Stress - are these terms familiar to you? If yes, then you probably know also that Oxidative Stress due to free radicals is now the leading cause of premature aging and chronic disease.
Free radicals are toxic oxygen molecules that are by-products of the body's oxidation process. These can also be produced by external sources such as pollution and stress. Antioxidants, which can be derived from healthy foods like vegetables and fruits, provide the optimal defense against oxidative stress.
There are two primary ways on how free radicals take over your system.
- One is when you're exposed to abundant environmental pollutants and toxins including cigarette smoke, alcohol, automobile exhaust, air pollution, bacterial or viral infections, radiation and asbestos.
- Another way is through mental stress. A study of 58 women aged 20 to 50 showed that 39 of them who were exposed to regular stressors had significantly higher levels of oxidative stress than the other 19 who were not.
Symptoms and Consequences
When oxidative stress damages the DNA and the telomeres, which are the caps at the gene-carrying chromosomes, physical symptoms of aging will appear. These include wrinkles, weakened muscles, fading eyesight, hearing loss, organ failure and memory loss.
Aside from causing premature aging, oxidative stress has also been associated with a number of health problems including heart disease, hypertension, cancer, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARS), asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, autism, stroke and Lou Gehrig's disease.
While it's normal to experience some level of oxidative stress from time to time, people must adopt healthy lifestyle changes in order to prevent and fight the negative repercussions of excessive free radicals in the body. One way to do that is to have an antioxidant-rich diet. As mentioned a while ago, antioxidants do so much in preventing oxidation, neutralizing the harmful effects of free radicals, and even helping in the recuperation of damage brought about by oxidative stress. Fortify your diet with fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole foods. Take antioxidant supplements if your diet doesn't give you sufficient intake.
Another important thing to keep in mind is not to over exercise. Yes, exercise is a major component of a healthy lifestyle that everyone should take part in. However, too strenuous exercise can cause too much oxidative stress in the body, doing your body more harm than good. It's imperative that you formulate a proper pace for your fitness program to avoid such scenario. Done in the right amount and pace, exercise can enhance the body's ability to fight mental stress that leads to oxidative stress.
You should also learn to take a break from your stressful life once in a while. Even though you have a healthy diet and regular exercise, if your days are constantly filled with anxiety-causing factors, stress will still take a toll on your health. Promote a healthier well-being by engaging in relaxation methods like massage, yoga, breathing techniques, meditation and many more. Go out more often, talk to your friends and family, go on a vacation, and take a break from your stressful work.