The Health Benefits of Antioxidants: Combating Stress

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Preventive medicine can take many forms. As I’ve found in my own practice, one key goal in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle is stress reduction. It is now widely accepted that stress is a risk factor in many disease entities. Pick up any magazine and you will likely find an article on the how’s and why’s of reducing stress. Less commonly considered, but nonetheless critically important, is stress that occurs on a molecular level. While oxygen is essential for life, unstable oxygen molecules, called free radicals, initiate detrimental change in the body. Each person’s cells and tissues are constantly subjected to attack by these highly reactive free radicals, causing what is termed oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can cause cell damage and is believed to contribute to aging and the development of chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s.

Antioxidant Protection
woman exercisingKey components in the battle against free radicals are antioxidants. Antioxidants protect our bodies by fighting free radicals, neutralizing and converting them into less harmful products. Antioxidants can be enzymes, essential nutrients (carotenoids, vitamins C and E, cysteine and selenium), and a variety of endogenous (substances that originate from within an organism, tissue, or cell) compounds like glutathione, lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, bioflavonoids, phenolic acid derivatives and proanthocyanidins. It is important to note that individual antioxidants function not in isolation, but in combination, as part of systems with significant interdependence and additive or synergistic effects.

A Dynamic Balance
Antioxidant status is the balance between the antioxidant system and prooxidants in living organisms. This balance is dynamic and is affected by many factors including diet, environment, alcohol, injury, disease, medications, stress, and exercise. A serious imbalance favoring oxidation is defined as oxidative stress. It may result from excessive production of free radicals and/or weakening of the antioxidant system because of inadequate intake of antioxidants, or the lessening of endogenous production of antioxidants.

Antioxidant Supplementation
Today I find that many of my patients, though they work diligently at improving their health, still have nutritional deficiencies. To supplement your dietary intake of antioxidants and aid your body’s daily production of the substances, I often recommend a daily antioxidant supplement that provides a balanced blend of anti-aging nutrients designed to support healthy mitochondrial function and protect cells against free radical damage. To take analysis a step further, many doctors utilize a blood test from Spectracell Laboratories called Spectrox® to identify each individual’s unique nutrient and antioxidant status. With this information, specific deficiencies or excesses that might be negatively influencing your health may be further corrected.

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Upcoming Cardiovascular Disease Prevention for Women Event in Boca Raton

Cardiovascular Disease Prevention for Women

I’m going to be co-chairing the first annual American Society of Preventive Cardiology’s Southeastern Conference Cardiovascular Prevention for Women event on Saturday April 28th. My co-chair will be Stephen L. Kopecky, MD, Professor of Medicine at the College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota. The event is co-sponsored by Boca Raton Regional Hospital and supported by many organizations such as the National Lipid Association, Go Red for Women, WomenHeart, The American Heart Association, and others..

If you are a health care practitioner interested in learning the latest about Women’s health, join us for this one-day conference at the Renaissance Boca Raton Hotel. (Continuing education credits are available.) The meeting will be led by a renowned group of faculty. Sessions will focus on the integrated delivery of preventive care for women, emphasizing early and aggressive global cardiovascular risk reduction strategies. You will leave with eye-opening practical solutions for managing your female patients. We look forward to seeing you soon.

For more information on the event and registration go to

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Innovative Heart Failure Discovery: Heart Failure’s Effects in Cells May be Reversed Via Rest

Our hearts might not be so different from our skeletal muscles after all. Researchers at the Imperial College London  have found that structural changes in heart muscle cells after heart failure can be reversed by allowing the heart to rest. Findings from a study conducted on rats published today in the European Journal of Heart Failure show that the condition’s effects on heart muscle cells are not permanent, as has conventionally been believed by scientists and physicians. The discovery could open the door to new treatment strategies and procedures.

Heart failure means the heart can no longer pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. It is commonly the result of a heart attack; it can occur with other disorders; or it can occur as a result of simply aging. Around 750,000 people in Britain are living with heart failure and it is estimated that it affects nearly 5 million Americans. Severe heart failure carries a substantial risk of death within one year, which is worse than the prognosis associated with most cancers. Clearly we need new heart failure treatments and preventive measures.

In 2006, researchers at Imperial College led by Professor Magdi Yacoub showed that in some individuals resting the heart using an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) fitted for a limited time can help the heart muscle to recover. The LVAD is a small pump that boosts the function of the heart and reduces strain on the left ventricle, the most important pumping chamber of our heart. The new study is a major step in understanding the mechanisms for improving muscle recovery at the level of heart muscle cells.

The Imperial researchers studied whether “unloading” the demands on heart muscle cells can reverse the changes and damage that occurs during heart failure in rats.

“If you injure a muscle in your leg, you rest it and this allows it to recover,” said Dr Cesare Terracciano, from the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) at Imperial, who supervised the study. “The heart can’t afford to rest – it has to keep beating continuously. LVADs reduce the load on the heart while maintaining the supply of blood to the body, and this seems to help the heart recover. We wanted to see what unloading does to heart muscle cells, to see how this works.”

Researchers transplanted a failing heart from one rat into another rat alongside that rat’s healthy heart, so that it received blood but did not have to pump. After the heart was able to rest, several changes in heart structure that impair heart contraction were reversed in the damaged heart.

“This is the first demonstration that this important form of remodelling of heart muscle cells induced by heart failure is reversible,” said Michael Ibrahim, also from the NHLI at Imperial, who conducted the research for his PhD funded by the British Heart Foundation. “If we can discover the molecular mechanisms for these changes, it might be possible to induce recovery without a serious procedure like having an LVAD implanted.”

The most profound cellular effects observed in this study concerned structures called t-tubules. These allow electrical signals to travel deep into the muscle cells so that all of the fibers contract simultaneously. T-tubules become sparse and irregular after heart failure. Unloading the heart led to the t-tubules returning to normal.

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