Seniors interested in living a long, healthy life must make an effort to manage inflammation in the body. Inflammation and aging are often linked together when a discussion about aging arises. Better Aging reports that nothing contributes to aging as much as inflammation. The good news is that as we age, we can take steps to manage or control inflammation as a strategy for slowing down the aging process.
Inflammation and Its Connection to Aging
While inflammation is a natural response by the immune system to heal damage to the body caused by infection or injury, ongoing or chronic inflammation is unwelcome and contributes to aging at a faster pace. Well + Good points out that when inflammation and aging work together, the collective, negative impact is called inflamm-aging.
Unfortunately, there is no way to absolutely eradicate inflammation as we age since our bodies typically produce elevated levels of biochemicals that can take a toll on our health over time. Cancer and the loss of muscle are two conditions resulting from consistently elevated levels of biochemicals like interleukin-6.
Since chronic inflammation is typically hard to spot, the average person may be unaware of any change in their body for years. One of the first signs there is a problem might be increased fatigue, for example. As the condition worsens; however, this chronic inflammation starts to damage organs, joints and arteries. The cumulative damage contributes significantly to diseases and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, blood vessel disease and Alzheimer’s.
Types of Inflammation
The are two types of inflammation. Acute inflammation is a short-term reactive inflammation that is associated with injuries, infections and illnesses. For example, every time a person gets a virus, white blood cells collect to provide extra protection and aid in the healing process. An injured area of the body such as a cut or wound is often red and swollen in correlation to the seriousness of the injury. This natural response of the immune system is temporary and fades as the healing process does its job.
Chronic inflammation occurs when the body misreads biological data and signals that something is wrong, even when it isn’t. WebMD defines chronic inflammation as a less painful type of inflammation that lasts longer than acute inflammation. When this happens, physicians often give a diagnosis of autoimmune disorder.
Disorders in this category are:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type 1 diabetes
- Ulcerative colitis
These conditions are often exacerbated by poor habits such as smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of physical exercise, weight gain, lack of quality sleep, alcohol abuse, and high levels of stress.
Tips for Preventing and Treating Inflammation
As mentioned earlier in the article, there is some good news for those of us who are willing to take control of the aging process by addressing inflammation through lifestyle changes.
Below are some tips that can make a significant difference in how fast you age.
1. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
Informed physicians and nutritionists are touting the importance of diet in healing the body and preventing many chronic health problems. Eating an abundance of whole foods and skipping highly processed alternatives is an excellent first step for lowering inflammation rates in the body. Loading up on fruits and vegetables is advisable. Reducing or eliminating refined sugar, red meat, white flour, fried foods and anything containing trans fats in your diet is also highly recommended.
It also makes sense to focus on adding more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. Tuna, salmon, tofu, soybeans, flax seeds and walnuts represent some of the best sources.
Other recommended anti-inflammatory foods are garlic, blueberries, tea, olive oil, celery and grapes. Adding in some spices such as turmeric, ginger and rosemary when possible is also a proven way to bolster your health and manage or reduce inflammation.
2. Make exercise a priority.
Exercise is another excellent way to prevent chronic inflammation. No, you aren’t required to sign up for a marathon or become a gym bunny to get the results you want. If you can make time for a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise combined with weight training for 10 to 20 minutes on at least four days a week, then you’ll see significant results.
3. Maintain a healthy weight.
Overweight people suffer from more chronic inflammation than their counterparts. Losing weight is always highly recommended if your Body Mass Index (BMI) ratio indicates there is a problem. Fortunately, losing weight is a natural result of practicing the diet tips above while exercising on a regular basis.
4. Manage stress levels.
Scripps reports that high stress levels contribute to chronic inflammation. While few would argue that it is impossible to completely eliminate stress, there are some proven strategies for managing it. Meditation, yoga and exercise are all proven ways to cope with stress and lessen its impact on your body.
5. Take the necessary steps to improve gut health.
As we age, the gut microbiota typically have less diversity which equates to a weaker barrier to protect against bacterial infections. This ongoing condition can lead to increased inflammation.
That’s why it is important to add more probiotic foods into your diet. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and pickles are four popular options. Some simply take a probiotic supplement daily to bolster gut health.
Chronic inflammation is one problematic condition that is significantly impacted by lifestyle choices. That’s why seniors who are interested in living a long, high-quality life should adopt a diet designed to manage inflammation. By lowering stress levels, exercising regularly and eating well, we can take charge of our health and positively impact the quality and length of our lives.