When there is an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in the body, the condition is termed oxidative stress. Free radicals can best be described as molecules containing oxygen with an uneven number of electrons.
Free radicals are able to easily react with other molecules because of the uneven number in their atomic makeup. Due to this high tendency to react with other molecules, free radicals can cause large chemical chain reactions inside of the body.
These chain reactions are called oxidation and can be harmful to the body or they may be beneficial to the body.
Antioxidants are characterized as molecules with the ability to donate one electron to a free radical without destabilizing themselves. Antioxidants help free radicals become more stable and less likely to react with other molecules.
Health Effects of Oxidative Stress
Learn about the major health effects of oxidative stress on the body now.
1. Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer is a progressive variation of dementia, an encompassing term defined by conditions that have resulted from injuries to the brain or diseases that adversely affect behavior, memory, and thinking.
Alzheimer’s disease causes the degeneration and death of brain cells, resulting in progressive memory impairment, difficulty with thinking and reasoning, a decreased ability to make decisions and judgments, as well as changes in behavior and personality.
This condition is very debilitating and adversely interferes with the everyday lives of the individuals who have it. Oxidative stress causes DNA oxidation to occur in the brain, and DNA oxidation causes an excitotoxic response that results in the death of critical nerve cells.
Oxidative stress also causes lipid oxidation in the brain, and this type of oxidation process produces numerous chemical byproducts that cause damage to the membranes of nerve cells. Stress also induces what is called protein oxidation, which results in byproducts like carbonyl that cause damage to nerve terminals.
All three of these types of oxidation processes often cause damage to the nerve cells which can result in the development of any form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
2. High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is best defined as the amount of force the blood places on the arterial walls as it flows through them. When this pressure gets too high, it is referred to as high blood pressure (hypertension).
Hypertension can result in several serious medical problems such as an increased risk of stroke, blood clots, aneurysms, kidney disease, metabolic syndrome, brain function impairment, heart failure, and heart attacks.
Oxidative stress causes the stimulation of vascular smooth cell hypertrophy (enlargement of cells) and proliferation or increase in the number of cells. This leads to the thickening of arterial walls and the narrowing of vessels, which results in an increase in blood pressure.
Oxidative stress also causes damage to the endothelium and inhibits the normal process of endothelium-dependent vascular relaxation. This results in increased contractile activity of the blood vessels, which causes an increase in blood pressure as well.
Atherosclerosis is characterized by narrowing and hardening of the cardiovascular arteries. This happens as a result of damage to the endothelium of the arteries or the inside arterial wall.
Once there is damage to the endothelium, the plaque is able to deposit and begin to build up in the arteries. This causes numerous serious health issues because of the arterial blockages.
When there is a blockage in the coronary arteries a heart attack can happen, and when there is a blockage in the carotid arteries can block blood flow to the brain, and a blockage in the renal arteries can cause failure of the kidneys.
The process of oxidative stress causes an inflammatory response in the blood vessels, which causes damage to the arterial endothelium. The arterial inflammation also provides the blood cell buildup needed to form plaque.
The process of oxidative stress aids in the facilitation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol conversion. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in this converted state is also a component of the plaque itself that causes atherosclerosis.
Diabetes describes conditions characterized by problems with the hormone insulin. The pancreas is responsible for the release of insulin in order to help the body metabolize the glucose consumed.
When the pancreas cannot produce insulin or when the body does not react normally to insulin, the condition is considered diabetes. Beta cells produce the hormone insulin.
These specialized types of cells are considerably sensitive to oxidative stress. In type 1 diabetes, oxidative stress is said to cause the problematic destruction of these insulin-producing beta cells.
Excessive oxidative stress can also trigger the onset of type 1 diabetes. Oxidative stress also plays a key role in causing a considerable increase in insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the primary cause of type 2 diabetes.
5. Heart Disease
Heart disease or cardiovascular disease describes various serious conditions that affect the heart and its function. Some diseases that fall under this umbrella are congenital.
Many other diseases are caused by some genetic factors, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices. One of the most common causes of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis.
In addition, high blood pressure or hypertension can also lead to heart disease, particularly hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or the thickening of the heart muscle.
Hypertension and atherosclerosis can cause severe heart arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms that can be considered one of the main factors of cardiovascular disease. Oxidative stress causes an increase in blood pressure, damages the endothelial wall, and stimulates the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
All of those conditions commonly result in the development of serious cardiovascular disease and subsequent congestive heart failure if they are gone unaddressed and untreated.