Part 1 of this two-part article discussed the basics of oxidative stress and aging, as well as providing solutions to increase the amount of antioxidants in the diet. Part 2 deals with active interventions that reduce free-radical activity, including how to develop the aerobic system, and how to reduce your exposure to chemical agents.
The Aerobic System
A powerful aerobic system is necessary for your antioxidant defense to work well. Even if you obtain all the necessary antioxidants, they can only do their job if you have enough aerobic muscle fibers.
The breakdown of free radicals occurs in cellular mitochondria—the body’s little aerobic motors—that lie within aerobic muscle fibers. The improved circulation that accompanies aerobic fitness helps get these nutrients into the aerobic fibers. Therefore, people in better aerobic shape (who have more aerobic muscle fibers and mitochondria) are more capable of controlling free radicals than those who are out of shape.
But exercise itself produces free radicals. Anaerobic exercise, which occurs when working out with free weights or at high intensities, generates more oxidative stress—up to a 120 percent increase over resting levels. This is the result of physical damage to muscles, lactic acid production, and higher oxygen uptake, which may increase tenfold during exercise.
However, easy aerobic exercise, especially at the heart rate determined by the 180 formula, produces very few of these harmful substances. This amount is easily controlled through the body’s natural defense system, especially if enough antioxidants are present.
Reducing Your Exposure to Chemicals
In addition to eating foods that contain antioxidants and becoming aerobically fit, you can reduce free radical production by simply avoiding exposure to certain toxic substances in your environment. Keep your home and work environment as free from pollutants as possible with these important tips:
- New building or home furnishing materials, including carpet, can quickly pollute the indoor air you breathe. Especially if you’ve just done some remodeling or redecorating, keep two windows open (preferably on east and west sides of the home) to let in some fresh air and vent your environment.
- Pay attention to the items you bring into your house—plastic bags, boxes, new building materials, etc., all contain chemicals. Keep as many of these materials in an outdoor shed or some other location.
- Clean out your attic, basement, closets, or other areas in which you may have stored potential pollutants such as old cans of paint, aerosols and cleaners. These products constantly leak vapors. Store all needed chemicals in an outside garage or shed and discard all items that have outlived their usefulness.
- Vent your garage. Your car constantly leaks fumes from gasoline, oil and other chemicals. In homes with an attached garage, these chemicals can easily find their way into your living areas.
- Use houseplants as a powerful but natural filtration system. Plant leaves filter the air, and the roots break down toxic chemicals into less harmful ones using natural bacteria and fungi. The best plants for the job include elephant ear and lacy tree philodendrons, golden pathos, and the spider plant. Ten plants per 1,000 square feet of living space is recommended, or one to three plants per room.
- Dietary pollution is another factor to consider. Avoiding processed and packaged foods usually reduces the amount of chemicals in your diet. Buying (and eating) organic further reduces the presence of dietary chemicals.
- Certain natural foods can also increase free-radical production. These include sassafras (used in root beer) and black pepper.
- Eliminate cosmetics and toiletries which contain fragrances—which are synthetic chemicals—and other potential toxins. These include most types of soaps, deodorants, shaving lotions and foams; hair spray, and mouthwash. Use only plain organic soaps without added fragrance.
Cleaning up your environment does not mean being obsessive—obsessiveness can introduce even more stress to your life. Just do your best to make your environment clean and safe. This, coupled with adequate intake of antioxidants and a regular aerobic exercise program, will help keep oxidative stress at bay, helping you to age successfully.