(NaturalNews) If the proverbial apple-a-day seems too antiquated, then perhaps a change is in order - a handful of fresh, organic blueberries rich in antioxidant goodness, perhaps? Or maybe some nice pecans? How you get them into your diet is your business, but researchers at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute now say a diet rich in antioxidants may provide some relief for the estimated 10 million Americans afflicted with peripheral arterial disease (PAD), for whom a "cardiovascular event" is a great risk.
PAD is a condition, whose cause conventional medicine has yet to officially identify, in which reduced blood flow leads both to elevated blood pressure and leg pain. Past studies have indicated that low antioxidant levels (allowing chemical products, called reactive oxygen species, to bind to cells and cause damage) are common in people with severe PAD. But Penn State researchers were able to build on that data in a recent study involving three different groups of patients, low-impact exercise, and the administration of vitamin C, an antioxidant. Though blood pressure levels did not return to those of a normal, healthy person, the vitamin C did effectively reduce blood pressure spikes for the PAD patients during exercise. It worked, apparently, because antioxidants work to prevent reactive oxygen species from causing damage to cells.
"This indicates that during normal, everyday activities such as walking, an impaired antioxidant system - as well as other factors - plays a role in the increased blood pressure response to exercise," said Matthe Muller, the study's lead author who is also a postdoctoral fellow at Penn State College of Medicine.
Maintain a healthy balance; don't go overboard on antioxidant foods and supplements
According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure, or hypertension, affects 74.5 million Americans over the age of 19. The power of antioxidants lies in their ability to clean up damage caused to arteries by the gradual buildup of waste materials in the arterial walls. This buildup poses several imminent health risks, as it may eventually clog arteries, thereby forcing the heart to work even harder to pump blood. Over time, antioxidants can restore the artery to health and elasticity.
But improved cardiovascular health is not the only benefit antioxidants have to offer. Though they also encourage better metabolic function, reduce inflammation, promote healthier aging and even contribute to cancer prevention, for example - antioxidants are hardly the complete answer to improved overall health.
They certainly guard against the free radicals (from pollution, sun exposure and even food digestion) that attack cells and DNA by stopping the chain reaction of their formation, but they will not have the same sweeping effects on their own as a lifestyle that already includes an appropriate amount of exercise, drinking plenty of water, and a nutritious diet that aids in the detoxification of toxic metals and other chemicals from the body. These simple practices can make a world of difference when it comes to health.
In any case, knowing which foods contain the most antioxidants is important, whether you're seeking out additional antioxidant support or looking simply to balance your current intake. A general rule of thumb is that foods rich in vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium and beta-carotene are good sources of antioxidants. These include dark green vegetables, certain berries and citrus fruits as well as whole grains like oatmeal. Following is a list of a few more, as divided by category.