It is hard to believe how much damage can be caused by one class of chemicals. If you smoke cigarettes, or get sunburned or eat burnt meat, or get injured by a host of other agents, the harm follows because it involves the introduction of 'free radicals' into your body. These are molecules which have a plus or minus sign at the top right hand side when written out. The sign represents the polarity of the electric charge they carry. The harm comes because they want to find and combine with chemicals carrying the opposite sign.
The way to combat them is to ingest 'antioxidants' which add the necessary positive or negative signed molecules to render the radicals innocuous. This is somewhat of a simplification but it is enough to remember this and to use these antioxidants to protect yourself from all the environmental poisons that attack you by this route. It is easy to get these antioxidants, especially in our modern age; it may be somewhat more problematic to avoid ingesting the free radicals if you are prone to wild behavior.
Let's look at a typical lifestyle and see where the person involved is getting these free radicals and antioxidants. Our subject wakes up on a typical morning and lights up a cigarette to replenish the nicotine he has lost overnight. The nicotine has some free radicals which burn the nerve endings where it does its job of replacing the body's 'neurotransmitters'. These natural neurotransmitters are not harmful to the nerve endings as is nicotine. The smoke which carries the nicotine also carries into the lungs a host of other chemicals such as furanes, tars, and other hydrocarbons, which can lodge in the lungs and irradiate them with the same 'ionizing' radiation that we get from x-rays(gamma radiation) and uranium(alpha and beta radiation). These three forms of radiation along with the tars and nicotine, all generate free radicals by breaking molecules into the signed, incomplete molecules.
After a cigarette he begins to shower, and the warm water feels good but it has a lot of chlorine 'outgassing'. In some districts the added fluorine also comes out. These are oxidizers, which are a type of free radical. Then he goes to the kitchen and fries up some bacon and eggs and brews coffee. The bacon is cured with sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate, (which are in many cigarettes too) and the THESE cause more free radicals in his body. Meat is especially dangerous if it is smoked(all smoke and smoke flavorings are full of free radicals) and if it is grilled until it chars. Boiled meat involves almost no added free radicals if it isn't cured.
The coffee has been roasted and has a share of these too. The saving thing is the tomato or orange juice, both of which are full of antioxidants and these counteract the radicals to a degree. The butter has been sitting around and getting oxidized forming butyric acid which is really dangerous, besides the clogging from high-melting point fats that line the arteries. The free radicals act to increase this arteriosclerosis, antioxidants help to slow it. The next few minutes see our friend on the road, where vehicles spew toxic gases right into Gus's body and THEY are full of these gems too.
All day the environment supplies many free radicals but few antioxidants. It is quite simple to fight these. First-avoid smoke, of all types, by quitting tobacco and pot, and eating better by avoiding charred meat and anything containing nitrates and nitrites. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. The antioxidants that help us overcome these are in vitamins, and the related chemicals called carotenes, and in BHT and BHA, and elswhere. The more you take the better though some vitamins can cause their own problems. Vitamin C is very effective while presenting the least toxicity.
In a nutshell-fewer exposures and regular intakes of antioxidants equal longer and healthier lives. V-8 juice is absolutely brimming with antioxidants, though some must avoid the sodium it contains.