Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. Research suggests that CVD begins with damage to the lining and inner layer of blood vessels that supply and lead away from the heart. Known factors that contribute to this damage include smoking, high levels of sugar or cholesterol in the blood, elevated blood pressure, blood vessel inflammation, and oxidative stress.
Plaque (made up of fats, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances) is attracted to this damage and begins to build up, narrowing and hardening the blood vessels and restricting blood flow. This process is called atherosclerosis.
Preventing atherosclerosis from developing in the first place is easier than trying to treat it. Stopping smoking, and controlling conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol disorders, reduces the development of atherosclerosis. But to ensure better heart health we need to also lower total body inflammation and reduce oxidative stress.
Our natural supply of antioxidants goes some way to counteracting free radicals that cause oxidative stress. Diets rich in fruit and vegetables and regular exercise help boost our inbuilt supply but the pressures of life can easily tip the balance from adequate antioxidant levels to not enough.
Vitamins are still an important source of antioxidants say experts from the Xuzhou Central Hospital, in China. Evidence supports their protective role in both preventing the development of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.