Aging Forces: Inflammation

Inflammation is part of our immune system and is required for healing and tissue repair.

Acute inflammation is the immediate, short-term response to an injury or illness. Acute inflammation results in increased blood flow to the area, increased white blood cell production and increased production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines. This acute inflammation response leads to redness, swelling, pain and warmth to the injured area. For example, after you sprain your ankle you develop swelling, pain, warmth and redness to the injured ankle. This acute inflammatory response improves the healing process and usually resolves spontaneously.

When you have an acute infection, such as the flu virus, the fever and body aches you experience are another example of acute inflammation. These symptoms resolve as you recover from the illness.

While acute inflammation can save our life and help us heal, problems develop when we experience a process called chronic inflammation. Unlike acute inflammation, which produces noticeable pain, redness, swelling and warmth, chronic inflammation is silent. In addition, while acute inflammation heals, chronic inflammation injures.

Low grade, chronic inflammation is an aging force that causes slow, silent destruction of our cells and organs. Chronic inflammation is a major aging force that contributes to the development of degenerative disease and loss of youthful functions.

Chronic inflammation plays such a tremendous role in the aging process that the term “inflammaging” is often used. Research has revealed that this silent inflammation contributes to accelerated aging and increases our risk of virtually every degenerative disease. This chronic inflammation is an aging force that negatively impacts metabolism, cell energy production, muscle strength, bone density, exercise tolerance, our vascular system as well as our brains and cognition. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, dementia, arthritis, diabetes, and stroke.

Chronic inflammation increases our rate of aging.

Chronic inflammation can persist undetected for years resulting in cell injury and cell death throughout the body.

Since most of us have excessive inflammation in our bodies, we must learn what causes it as well as what we can do to mollify this erosive force.

We can think of chronic inflammation as a malfunctioning or over-reaction of our immune system. With chronic inflammation, our body is trying to correct underlying problems, usually precipitated by an unhealthy lifestyle. This is a perfect example of the body’s innate ability to recognize threats to our health. Unfortunately, with chronic inflammation these threats to our health are usually self-induced!

Let’s identify the common lifestyle triggers of chronic inflammation so we can become empowered to live an anti-aging lifestyle.

Chronic inflammation is commonly triggered by elevated blood sugar levels (glycation), excessive calorie intake, excessive free radicals (oxidation), insulin resistance, obesity, hormone deficiencies, trans-fat intake, nutrient deficiencies, poor sleep, high stress levels, sedentary lifestyle and smoking. (Please see previous posts on the aging forces of oxidation, glycation and insulin resistance)

Fortunately, our anti-aging lifestyle interventions can address and rectify all of these common precipitants of this destructive aging force.

LIFESTYLE INTERVENTIONS TO LOWER CHRONIC INFLAMMATION AND SLOW AGING:

DIET

Eat nutrient dense foods to avoid excessive calorie intake.

Eat high quality proteins and fats to avoid macronutrient deficiencies.

Eat low glycemic carbohydrates such as non-starchy vegetables and whole fruits to balance blood sugar/insulin levels, to improve insulin sensitivity and to supply anti-inflammatory nutrients. When we control blood glucose and insulin levels we lower inflammation throughout the body.

Avoid processed carbohydrates such as breads, pasta, rice, cereals, processed grains, cookies, cakes, candy, and soft drinks, all of which elevate blood sugar levels. Elevated blood sugar levels produce advanced glycation end products (AGEs) resulting in excessive oxidation. Oxidative stress damages cells and causes a cascade of inflammatory signals fueling the fire of inflammation.

Avoid processed foods as they contain excessive omega-6 fats, trans-fats, and high-fructose corn syrup leading to excessive inflammation.

Fat cells produce inflammatory chemicals, which constantly trigger excessive inflammation. Our healthy diet promotes fat burning metabolism greatly lowering our body fat percentage as well as the level of inflammation.

EXERCISE

A sedentary lifestyle increases inflammation, so get moving!

Exercise, especially short-duration, high-intensity training, dramatically lowers the production of cytokines and pro-inflammatory molecules.

STRESS REDUCTION

Since both physical and emotional stress promotes chronic inflammation we must take time to initiate the relaxation response with stress reduction techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, and deep breathing exercises.

In addition, our anti-aging lifestyle lowers cellular stress by controlling glycation, oxidation and improving insulin sensitivity.

SLEEP

Sleep disorders increase inflammation. A healthy sleep pattern is rejuvenating, restorative and anti-inflammatory.

HORMONE THERAPY

Hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and DHEA, modulate the immune/inflammatory response. Low hormone levels increase chronic inflammation and accelerate aging. For example, with menopause and andropause, the drop in hormone levels produces elevated inflammation. This chronic inflammation increases muscle loss, bone loss, weight gain and increases the risk of many degenerative diseases.

Bio-identical hormone therapy can lower inflammation, improve health, decrease degenerative disease and slow the rate of aging.

NUTRACEUTICALS

Many nutrients provide anti-inflammatory protection. Our anti-aging diet is full of phytochemicals and polyphenols that lower inflammation. Supplementing with a wide array of nutrients can add further benefits.

Omega-3 fats in pharmaceutical grade fish oil balance pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats that are so prevalent in our western diets. Medical literature reveals tremendous health benefits of omega-3 supplementation, usually because of their influence on inflammation.

A high quality multivitamin/mineral formula gives anti-inflammation protection from nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, selenium, vitamin E, and beta-carotene to name just a few.

Vitamin D3 provides immune support and anti-inflammation impact.

Anti-aging nutrients such as resveratrol, pterostilbene, curcumin, coQ10, alpha-lipoic acid, and L-carnitine lower inflammation and support healthy mitochondrial function in all of our cells.

Mitochondria are the structures in our cells that generate energy. They are vulnerable to oxidative injury from free radical production leading to mitochondrial dysfunction. Since mitochondrial dysfunction is a primary activator of inflammation, the anti-aging nutrients that support mitochondrial function can pay us healthy dividends.

QUIT SMOKING

Smoking generates excessive oxidation and inflammation.

DENTAL HYGIENE 

Periodontal disease is a common trigger of excessive inflammation and cell injury throughout the body. Floss and brush…. it’s a simple anti-aging maneuver.

A key to successful aging and health is to lower the deleterious effects of chronic low-level inflammation in the body. Our Anti-aging lifestyle is an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

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