Damaging Free Radicals and Super Hero Antioxidants

In cells, oxygen is constantly involved in chemical reactions in which electrons are shifted around. This is called oxidation. In an oxidation reaction, one atom or compound will steal electrons from another atom or compound. This process creates highly reactive, unstable, harmful particles known as free radicals.  Free radicals cause damage and many experts believe damage from free radicals is a factor in the development of  blood vessel disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and many chronic diseases. Free radicals can cause LDL cholesterol to oxidize, increasing cardiovascular risk. They can also damage genes in ways that contribute to the aging process. The damage to cells caused by free radicals, especially the damage to DNA, may play a role in the development of cancer and other health conditions.

We are exposed to free radicals through normal cellular processes, the effects of ultraviolet light and sun exposure, air pollution, trauma, excess heat, and smoking or when the body breaks down certain medicines. Our bodies also produce free radicals during exercise because we inhale more oxygen and use more energy and through by-products of normal processes that take place in your body (such as the burning of sugars for energy and the release of digestive enzymes to break down food). To generate energy, our cells remove electrons from sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids and add them to other molecules, especially oxygen. All this creates free radicals.

Antioxidants to the rescue. Antioxidants are the superheroes of the complex world of biochemistry because they provide an electron that the free radical is missing and neutralize it, ending the chain of destruction. Antioxidants thus protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants play a role in the management or prevention of some medical conditions and aging. 

It takes a variety of antioxidants and lots of them to help successfully deactivate the different kinds of free radicals. The body’s natural antioxidant defense system is partly fueled by the antioxidants we consume. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, lutein, lignan, lycopene, and other carotenoids, and selenium. In general, the best dietary sources of antioxidants are vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, seeds and other plant-derived foods.

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Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit!

So eat some beans at every meal!

The benefits of beans are so numerous that I can’t say enough in praise about beans. Beans are so outstanding that only green vegetables come close as a valuable food source!

I recommend that adults eat 3 cups of beans per week for health and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases because of the richness of antioxidants and fiber.

Beans are “heart healthy” because they contain soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and unhealthy triglyceride levels.

Research is saying we should be eating more plant proteins. Beans are a great choice! 1/2 cup of beans delivers 7 grams of protein, the same amount as in 1 ounce of chicken, meat or fish.

With a low glycemic index, beans contain a blend of complex carbohydrates and protein. Because of this, beans are digested slowly, which helps keep blood glucose stable.

Beans contain protein, healthy carbs, fiber, antioxidants, and copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.

Beans can be incorporated easily into a main dish, salads, side dish, soup or dip.

Beans can are the least expensive source of protein, especially when compared to fresh meat.

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Are You at Risk For Cardiovascular Disease?

Cardiovascular Risk Self-Assessment

You can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Start by becoming aware of your risk factors – the personal characteristics and habits that may increase your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Some you can’t change or control; some you can, by making a few changes in your diet, daily habits or taking medicine as prescribed.

The following factors may increase your risk. Check all boxes in the quiz that apply to you. Leave blank if you do not know the answers. If you indicate 3 or more YES, see a physician for a complete assessment of your risks!

1. Do you have a family history of early heart disease (Heart attack, angioplasty, coronary artery stenting or coronary bypass surgery)?
Yes if: Your father or brother had heart problems before age 55 or your mother or sister had heart problems before age 65

2. Do you have a family history of early stroke?
Yes if: Your father or brother had a stroke before age 55 or Your mother or sister had a stroke before age 65

3. Do you have a family history of other forms of CVD? Other CVD disorders include high blood pressure, Heart Failure, Sudden Death, Arrhythmia, Aortic aneurysms or “bad circulation” to the legs.
Yes if: A family member had heart disease or stroke older than age 55 for men and age 65 for women

4. Are you African-American?
Approximately 40% of African-American women have some form of CVD and may not know it.

5. Do you have high cholesterol or are you taking medicine to control it?
You should know your “ideal” cholesterol goal. The goal depends on what your other risk factors are and whether or not you have CVD now.

6. Do you have diabetes or are you taking medications to lower blood sugar?
Diabetes is a greater risk factor for CVD in women than men.

7. Do you have hypertension, high blood pressure or are you taking medicine to control it?
o Normal blood pressure = below 120/80
o Stage 1 Hypertension = between 130-140 OR 80-89
o Stage 2 Hypertension = above 140-159 OR 90-99

8. Do you smoke or are you exposed to second hand smoke every day?

9. Are you overweight or obese?

10. Are you over age 44 or have gone through menopause (natural or surgical)?

11. Do you exercise fewer than 3 days a week for less than 30 minutes each time?

12. Do you lead a high stress lifestyle?

13. Are you over age 35 and take birth control pills?

14. Do you have chronic kidney problems or receive dialysis?

15. Do you have metabolic syndrome? Metabolic syndrome is having at least 3 of the following:
a. High blood sugar after fasting (>100 mg/dl)
b. High triglycerides (>150 mg/dl)
c. Low “good cholesterol” or HDL (<45 mg/dl in women, < 40 men)
d. Blood pressure of 130/85 or higher
e. Waist measurement of 35 inches or more Men – 40 inches or more

16. Do you get < 30 minutes of physical activity on most days?

SCORING: Answering “Yes” to ANY question indicates that you have an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease. If you answered “Yes” to MORE THAN 3 of these questions, you are at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease and it is recommended that you consult your physician.

There are risk factors for CVD that you can have influence over.

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