Free radicals, oxidative stress, oxidized low density lipoprotein (LDL), and the heart: antioxidants and other strategies to limit cardiovascular damage.


Sinatra ST, DeMarco J.




Conn Med


The heart is the most susceptible of all the organs to premature aging and free radical oxidative stress. Clinical research has clearly documented the role of free radical damage and the progression of numerous degenerative diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease. This may be the result of acute ischemia-reperfusion injury, endothelial damage of hyperhomocysteinemia, as well as chronic oxidative damage secondary to lipid peroxidation. Fortunately, although highly responsive, and therefore vulnerable to the effects of oxidative stress, the heart is also receptive to the benefits of targeted phytonutrients, antioxidants, and nutritionals. The effects of antioxidant nutrients have been extensively evaluated in epidemiological, population, and clinical studies. Phytonutrients such as the natural flavonoids and carotenoids found in fresh fruits and vegetables or vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene have powerful antioxidant effects. In addition, minerals like selenium and nutrients such as coenzyme Q10 will minimize free radical risk and optimize a favorable outcome from the ubiquitous presence of oxidative stress on the cardiovascular system. The B complex, particularly folic acid, B12, and B6 are also essential in the prevention of hyperhomocysteinemia, another major risk factor for the circulatory system. Measures to minimize accumulation of heavy metals in the body, especially iron and copper, which are capable of initiating adverse free radical reactions, will also help to assuage oxidative stress. Thus, the combination of a healthy diet supplemented with antioxidants and phytonutrients may be useful in the prevention and promotion of optimum cardiovascular health.

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