An important recent study concludes that low levels of both good cholesterol or HDL and an important serum antioxidant called glutathione peroxidase substantially increases cardiovasculr mortality. What this means that both factors, oxidative stress – usually referred to as inflammation- and low levels of the good cholesterol (HDL) relative to the bad cholesterol (LDL) will determine your risk for imminent death from cardiovascular disease (heart attack or stroke).
This study followed 370 individuals, 130 who died from cardiovascular disease after 5 to 12 years of follow-up plus 240 controls. The participants varied in age from 26 to 85 years old and were predominantly white.
This study was initiated because of the widely held idea that oxidative stress is a major factor in vascular injury leading to death. Dietary antioxidants don’t seem to decrease cardiovascular disease but there is still enough evidence to suggest that oxidation is important.
The important antioxidant here is glutathione peroxidase, which is a family of enzymes which reduce oxidized lipids and decrease vascular injury. That is, they prevent the build up of cholesterol junk inside your blood vessels.
The subjects were in the Minnesota Heart Survey, which was started in 1980 as an ongoing study of heart disease risk factors. The analysis of the data was adjusted for age, gender and base line year, plus BMI, smoking, physical activity and alcohol intake.
Of the subjects that died, they were more likely to have smoked, have higher than average blood pressure, more likely to have used medications for blood pressure and cholesterol, and higher blood sugars
It is very likely that lifestyle is the biggest factor in determining the activity of this important class of enzymes (antioxidants) rather than antioxidant supplementation. The idea of taking a pill to cure the lack of self care is more or less perpetrated by our current thinking.
Individuals with both low HDLc and GPx3 activity are at markedly increased risk for death from CVD. This association appears to be limited to individuals with a low HDLc.
It is clear that low levels of HDL and antioxidant enzymes increases risk of death from cardiovascular disease. It seems also clear by the latest reports that supplementation of foods high in antioxidants doesn’t seem to be as effective as expected in lowering that risk. It is more likely that we need to be more proactive in our health by eliminating smoking, reducing alcohol, obesity, and increasing exercise and healthy eating. It know it is work and it is not a welcome idea that we need to take time out of our day to stay healthy. However, the great thing is the side effects of choosing this lifestyle: looking more attractive and younger and feeling better.