Chronic Inflammation: A Key Driver Of Disease
What if you could control a key cause of diseases – and ward off illnesses – by making small but important decisions in your day-to-day life?
It's entirely possible now that study after study points to chronic inflammation as the linchpin of major diseases. By taking steps to reduce inflammation, you can lower your risk for disease.
What Is Chronic Inflammation?
Not all inflammation is bad:
- Short-term inflammation is a good and natural part of your immune system's response to a perceived threat. It's the red tenderness around a skin infection or the swelling of a twisted ankle. When you have an injury or infection, inflammation helps rebuild tissues and eliminate invaders like bacteria and viruses.
- Chronic inflammation occurs over long periods of time, usually at low levels that aren't visible to the naked eye or on routine blood tests. And it can damage healthy tissue. Ongoing research has found that chronic inflammation is a major player in many of the most prevalent diseases in our country.
Chronic inflammation sets off a cascade of disease-causing effects and has been linked to Alzheimer's disease, cancer, heart disease and diabetes, to name a few. People with chronic inflammation have a much greater risk of developing a serious condition.
What Causes Inflammation?
There's no definitive answer to why chronic inflammation occurs. But it's clear that the immune system continues to act as if there's a problem – either because one still exists or because the inflammatory response won't switch off.
And we do know that certain lifestyle factors can trigger chronic inflammation, including:
- Lack of exercise
How Can You Reduce Inflammation?
Preventing chronic inflammation will help you lower your risk for diseases. The good news is that there are many anti-inflammatory steps you can take, including:
Toxic chemicals in tobacco products trigger an immune response in your respiratory system, putting your immune system on constant high alert. Smoking is the No. 1 controllable risk factor for many deadly diseases.
Need help quitting? Check out our tobacco cessation programs.
Maintain a healthy weight
Researchers have found that fat cells cause an inflammatory immune response. The more fat cells you have, the greater the negative impact on your health. Maintaining a healthy weight avoids triggering inflammation. Get help reaching your ideal weight through our various weight loss programs.
A consistent exercise routine not only helps maintain a healthy weight but also produces anti-inflammatory effects. One study found that even a single 20-minute session of fast walking on a treadmill had a positive influence on the immune system. Exercise helps circulate anti-inflammatory substances. Learn how exercise can fight off colds and flu, too.
Eat a nutritious diet
Go through your pantry and toss out processed foods, which worsen inflammation. Instead, stock your fridge with whole foods.
Vegetables, fruit, fish and lean meats are all healthy choices packed with nutrients your body needs. A proven anti-inflammatory eating plan is the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on whole foods like these. Speak with a dietitian to get nutritional counseling.
Manage stress levels
The fight-or-flight response is triggered by stress, which worked great when humans were being chased by wild animals. But these days, people are more prone to being stressed out by relationships or everyday events.
That constant stress leads to an overabundance of stress hormones, which produce an inflammatory response. Reduce chronic inflammation by finding ways to lower your stress level. Get tips on how to manage work-related stress.
Get regular checkups
Get an annual physical exam to monitor for high cholesterol or glucose – signs of trouble, especially if you also have chronic inflammation. Also, don't put off your dental checkup. The same immune cells that react to infected gums can travel to the heart and damage healthy tissue. Find a doctor and schedule an appointment today.
As we age, inflammation naturally increases in the body. But by following these tenets of good health, you can make a big difference in preventing disease and living your healthiest life.