Well, oxidative stress is a common underlying cause. It’s not as noticeable as other conditions. Yet, it’s often in the background.
In this article, you’ll learn what it is and why it matters.
Firstly, what is oxidative stress?
It’s the production of free radicals from reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. It’s a natural process. And, it’s necessary for producing ATP in our cells.
In many ways, it’s essential for proper neuronal development. Yet, its excess can lead to negative side effects. For instance, it can cause protein and lipid deterioration and cellular degeneration.
With time, this excess may result in cognitive decline.
Where does it come from?
Oxidative stress comes from the mentioned molecules. In summary, our organisms scavenge these nutrients. But, our antioxidant system can fail to neutralize its production.
In other words, we produce more than we can manage. That’s what we know as an oxidative stress state. In turn, it produces more ROS, worsening the condition.
How does our body cope with oxidative stress?
Our body has two mechanisms to prevent oxidative stress.
Firstly, we have antioxidant enzymes. They’re the first response. And, they generate hydrogen peroxide by dismutating free radicals.
Then, we have low-molecular-weight antioxidants. They neutralize oxidative stress with transition metals.
In other words, our bodies increase their antioxidant defenses.
What is oxidative stress when it comes to brain aging?
Curiously, oxidative stress has little to do with our environment. Our nutrition and physical condition dictate the chances. But, how does it affect our brains?
Excessive ROS and RNS can trigger neurodegeneration from multiple sources. We have hypoxia, hypoglycemia, and secondary conditions.
I should also note that oxidative stress impacts different neutrons differently.
It’s a delicate balance that’s crucial for our brains’ function
As mentioned, these dynamics are vital for brain functions. They handle energy generation via different reactions. But, its potential makes it as useful as damaging.
Of course, that’s when antioxidation doesn’t work properly.
So, ROS and RNS need balance. Luckily, a balanced and healthy diet is often enough to avoid these issues.
Free radicals, aging, and oxidative stress
Cognitive decline is also characteristic in aging people. The same goes for disease susceptibility. And, the “free radical theory” behind aging could answer the first half.
During their lifetime, mitochondria produce and suffer oxidative stress. Oxidative damage causes them to lose integrity and release more oxygen. Thus, that worsens its damage. Prolonged with age, this process accumulates dysfunctional mitochondria.
5 crucial changes in the aging brain from oxidative stress
The same study I just linked goes through 5 basic changes in the brain. Going through them should explain how oxidative stress damages cognition over time.
- Firstly, we have mitochondrial changes. Normal antioxidant mechanisms decrease. That makes our brains more vulnerable to oxidative damage.
- Then, cellular membranes suffer from fatty acid damage. That translates to higher “bad” fatty acid volumes in the brain.
- Oxidation also bleeds into proteins. So, protein oxidation is fairly common in aging brains.
- Brain inflammation is another common effect of aging and related diseases.
- Lastly, the antioxidant defense mechanism evolves to prevent cell damage. In theory, this could increase cellular lifespan.
The holistic takeaway
So, what is oxidative stress? Essentially, it’s a common aging process that can worsen with our habits. Nutrition, lifestyle, and other factors may worsen it. But, we can’t entirely shut it off.
That’s why exercise, balanced diets, and supplementation are so important.
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