As you already know, cardiovascular disease is the number-one killer in industrialized countries. We have already talked about several factors for avoiding heart disease and strokes (a prudent diet, not smoking, and participating in regular exercise) and now will discuss the role of antioxidants, such as those found in NuMedica supplements in preventing cardiovascular disease.
Q: How can I decrease my odds of getting cardiovascular disease (CVD)?
A: It is thought that the risk of CVD can decrease by 80% if people maintain a proper weight, follow a prudent diet, do not smoke, and participate in regular exercise.
Q: Does reducing the risk of CVD make that much of a difference?
A: It has been estimated that if all major forms of CVD were eliminated, life expectancy would increase by approximately seven years. Some even estimate a rise in total life expectancy of 10 years.
Q: Does cholesterol play a big role in heart disease?
A: Cholesterol plays a very big role in the formation of CVD. The risk of heart attack is highest in men and women who have low HDL levels and high total cholesterol levels. A 10% decrease in cholesterol levels can result in a 20%-30% decrease in the risk of CVD.
Approximately 20% of Americans have high blood cholesterol levels, and 31% have borderline high levels. About 40.6 million Americans have total cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dl or above, which is considered high risk in adults. Although some variations in laboratory reference ranges may exist, you are considered to be at high risk of heart disease if your cholesterol levels are above 240 mg/dl. You are at moderate risk if your levels are between 200 mg/dl and 240 mg/dl, and low risk if your levels are below 200 mg/dl.
Q: What is so bad about cholesterol?
A: Cholesterol is vital and necessary for many normal functions in the body. The problem with cholesterol occurs when too much of it is oxidized. It is thought that free radicals can cause this oxidation or breakdown to the structure of the LDL cholesterol. The oxidized LDL cholesterol can then affect processes that lead to CVD. For example, it can speed up the damage to the blood vessels and change the diameter of the blood vessel, both of which lead to the formation of heart disease. It does this through endothelial damage, reperfusion, and ischemia.
Oxidized LDL cholesterol can also enter the blood vessel walls, which is considered to be an essential step in the formation of CVD. Oxidized LDL has been shown to increase uptake of LDL by foam cells, alter vascular tone and formation of auto-antibodies, and accelerate endothelial damage. It is not so much the cholesterol that is bad, it is the breakdown that occurs to it from free radical attack that makes it bad. What makes the situation even worse is that the heart appears to be very susceptible to damage from free radicals. Therefore, cholesterol levels need to be controlled and the amount of cholesterol that is exposed to free radicals needs to be kept to a minimum. Remember that antioxidants such as those found in NuMedica supplements can help destroy free radicals and thus keep the cholesterol from being broken down.
Read on to part II of this blog to learn how antioxidants play a role in cardiovascular health.