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7 Ways to Curb Chronic Inflammation: Research is pointing to its wide-ranging harms on your general health.

Inflammation has been something of a health buzzword for several years now, as more and more studies reveal its impact on physical and cognitive health. Inflammation damages arteries, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke; promotes the development of cancerous tumors; and contributes to arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It also destroys nerve cells in the brains of people with dementia. These harms occur even though inflammation is actually a part of the healing process--your immune system's first line of defense against infection and injury.

What tips inflammation from being a protective mechanism to a factor in numerous life-changing diseases is how long it lasts, says Mount Sinai cardiologist Bruce Darrow, MD, PhD. "Ordinarily, the body's healing process is over within a few days or weeks, but sometimes it persists," he explains. "We don't know exactly how or why this happens, but it may be due to repeated or prolonged infections, smoking, or even chronic gum disease. Stress also has been implicated, along with obesity." The end result is chronic systemic inflammation that essentially puts your immune system in a state of constant red alert.

Dr. Darrow says your best bet for avoiding the harms of chronic inflammation is to prevent it in the first place. There are medications that can reduce it--however, these drugs come with potentially serious side effects. Examples include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil[R]), and corticosteroids such as prednisone (Deltasone8, Sterapred8), which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and other inflammatory conditions. "NSAIDs are associated with a raised risk of bleeding, kidney disease, and high blood pressure, while corticosteroids are linked to weight gain, elevated blood sugar, glaucoma, cataracts, and osteoporosis," Dr. Darrow says. He points to the following simple lifestyle modifications as a way of combating chronic inflammation without risking additional problems.

1 Maintain a Normal Weight Obesity is strongly associated with inflammation, and abdominal obesity in particular may contribute to it by generating inflammatory substances like C-reactive protein (CRP). "Even a modest weight loss--say, five to 10 pounds--may measurably reduce CRP levels," Dr. Darrow says.

2 Exercise More A small 2017 study suggested that as little as 20 minutes of exercise may have anti-inflammatory effects. The researchers theorized that exercise suppresses the production of proinflammatory proteins called cytokines. The study participants engaged in moderate-to-vigorous intensity walking.

3 Eat a Healthful Diet Saturated fat (present in red meat and full-fat dairy) raises CRP levels, so reduce your intake by eating a Mediterranean-style diet. The diet centers on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein, such as poultry, fish, and beans. It also promotes the consumption of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (present in olive oil, nuts, avocadoes, and fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines, and/or salmon). "The Mediterranean diet boosts your intake of the omega-3 fatty acids that are believed to combat inflammation, as well as antioxidants the body uses to manufacture anti-inflammatory chemicals," Dr. Darrow notes. Consider consuming more soy protein too--soy contains substances that can help quell inflammation.

4 Manage Stress "CRP and other markers of inflammation tend to rise after stressful events, and may be consistently elevated in people who experience chronic stress," Dr. Darrow says. Meditation and exercise can help you combat stress--yoga may be particularly helpful, with studies indicating that it lowers levels of CRP and another key inflammatory marker, interleukin-6 (IL-6).

5 Get Enough Sleep Research suggests that people who get less than seven hours of sleep a night have significantly increased levels of CRP, IL-6, and fibrinogen (another inflammatory marker). You're more likely to get restful sleep if you schedule any naps early in the day, avoid caffeinated beverages in the evening, and establish a relaxing bedtime routine (for example, a snack, a bath, and a few minutes of meditation or reading before lights-out).

6 Quit Smoking Smoking is known to promote inflammation, so if you still engage in the habit, seek advice on quitting. Your doctor may be able to recommend smoking cessation aids, while the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) can provide details of local support groups for quitters.

7 Take Care of Your Gums Several studies have linked gum disease and heart disease--it's thought that the bacteria that cause inflammation and swelling of the gums also may contribute to systemic inflammation and narrowing of the arteries. Floss and brush your teeth twice every day--if your manual dexterity is limited by arthritis, consider using a water flosser to ensure that the gum tissue between your teeth is free of bacteria.


Conditions commonly associated with chronic inflammation include;

* Having a large waist measurement At or above 35 inches for a woman and 40 inches for a man.

* High blood pressure A measurement at or above 130/85 millimeters of mercury.

* High blood sugar At or above 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) after a period of fasting.

* High triglycerides 150 mg/dL or above, as measured by a fasting blood test.

Caption: Among numerous other health harms, chronic inflammation damages the arteries, raising your risk of heart attack.
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Publication:Focus on Healthy Aging
Date:Aug 27, 2019
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