Health Fo­cus

...Takes a toll on your health. Some­thing as in­nocu­ous as painful joints can sig­nal CHRONIC IN­flAM­MA­TION.

Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS -

Treat painful joints

Most of us have suf­fered the swelling, red­ness, and warmth that de­velop after a mi­nor in­jury, and this acute in­flam­ma­tion is an ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse to re­pair­ing in­jured tis­sue, as well as re­pelling harm­ful viruses and bac­te­ria. How­ever, in­flam­ma­tion also may be in­volved in a slew of de­bil­i­tat­ing health con­di­tions. There is ev­i­dence that even low-level chronic in­flam­ma­tion dam­ages the ar­ter­ies, which can lead to heart at­tack and stroke. It also can de­stroy brain cells, pro­mote the de­vel­op­ment of can­cer­ous tu­mours, and con­trib­ute to arthri­tis and chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease. So how is it that some­thing as sim­ple and pro­tec­tive as in­flam­ma­tion can also un­der­pin life-chang­ing dis­eases? The an­swer can be found in the dif­fer­ences be­tween in­flam­ma­tion that is acute, and that which is chronic and can be­come self-per­pet­u­at­ing and sys­temic.

DOU­BLE-EDGED SWORD

In­flam­ma­tion is one of the im­mune sys­tem’s first-line weapons in re­sponse to bac­te­ria, viruses, and other mi­cro­bial in­vaders; a phys­i­o­log­i­cal re­sponse that is de­signed to jump­start the process of heal­ing. It’s a com­plex mech­a­nism. If the body’s tis­sues suf­fer a trauma, dam­aged cells release proin­flam­ma­tory chem­i­cals. Blood flow in­creases to the af­fected area, re­sult­ing in red­ness of the skin; and the pro-in­flam­ma­tory chem­i­cals at the site make blood ves­sels more per­me­able, so that they leak fluid into the tis­sues, swelling them. The chem­i­cals also at­tract white blood cells that ‘eat’ bac­te­ria and dead or dam­aged cells. Or­di­nar­ily, this heal­ing process is over within a few days or weeks – but it can lay the ground­work for chronic dis­ease if it doesn’t switch off. The end re­sult is chronic sys­temic in­flam­ma­tion, a con­tin­u­ous flood of pro-in­flam­ma­tory chem­i­cals and im­mune cells that dam­age the lin­ing of blood ves­sels, or­gans, and joints.

FIREFIGHTING

Statins and other med­i­ca­tions – such as non-steroidal anti-in­flam­ma­tory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibupro­fen and cor­ti­cos­teroids (used to treat

Getting more ex­er­cise will help you con­trol obe­sity, which is strongly as­so­ci­ated with in­flam­ma­tion.

rheuma­toid arthri­tis) – can re­duce in­flam­ma­tory chem­i­cals. But these drugs come with side ef­fects that can be harm­ful. Anti-in­flam­ma­tory lifestyle mod­i­fi­ca­tion is a way to im­prove your health with­out risk­ing ad­di­tional prob­lems. Con­sider these changes:

Eat A Healthy Diet

C-re­ac­tive pro­tein (CRP) is pro­duced by the liver, and lev­els rise when in­flam­ma­tion is present in the body. Sat­u­rated fat (which is present in meat and full-fat dairy) and trans fats (which is found in many re­fined baked goods – check prod­uct la­bels for par­tially-hy­dro­genated oils) can raise your CRP lev­els. You eat a Mediter­ranean-style diet, fo­cus­ing on plenty of fruits and veg­eta­bles, whole grains, and lean sources of pro­tein, such as fatty fish (salmon, mack­erel, trout), poul­try, and beans. The Mediter­ranean diet lim­its your con­sump­tion of sat­u­rated and trans fats. It also boosts your in­take of the omega-3 fatty acids that may com­bat in­flam­ma­tion, as well as an­tiox­i­dants the body uses to man­u­fac­ture an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory chem­i­cals.

Get Phys­i­cal

Getting more ex­er­cise will help you con­trol obe­sity, which is strongly as­so­ci­ated with in­flam­ma­tion. Even mod­est weight loss – say, five to 10 pounds – can mea­sur­ably re­duce your lev­els of CRP.

Limit Al­co­hol

Red wine con­tains an­tiox­i­dants that are thought to dampen down in­flam­ma­tion in blood ves­sels. How­ever, ex­ces­sive al­co­hol con­sump­tion is as­so­ci­ated with a higher risk for cer­tain can­cers, liver dis­ease, de­pres­sion, and falls. Al­co­hol also in­ter­acts with many med­i­ca­tions. If you con­sume al­co­hol, limit your in­take to no more than one drink a day.

Man­age Stress

CRP and other mark­ers of in­flam­ma­tion may be con­sis­tently el­e­vated in peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­ence chronic stress and/ or de­pres­sion. Med­i­ta­tion and ex­er­cise can help you com­bat stress and de­pres­sion – yoga may be par­tic­u­larly help­ful, with stud­ies in­di­cat­ing that it low­ers CRP and an­other key in­flam­ma­tory marker, in­ter­leukin-6.

Get Enough Sleep

Try to clock in a good seven hours of sleep each night, since re­search sug­gests that peo­ple who get less have sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased lev­els of CRP, in­ter­leukin-6, and fib­rino­gen (also an in­flam­ma­tory marker).

Quit Smok­ing

Smok­ing is known to pro­mote in­flam­ma­tion, so quit the habit if you haven’t done so al­ready. Your doc­tor can rec­om­mend smok­ing ces­sa­tion aids that may help.

Take Care Of Your Gums

Sev­eral stud­ies have linked gum dis­ease and heart dis­ease – it’s pos­si­ble the bac­te­ria that cause in­flam­ma­tion and swelling of the gums also may con­trib­ute to sys­temic in­flam­ma­tion and nar­row­ing of the ar­ter­ies. Floss and brush twice ev­ery day – if your man­ual dex­ter­ity is lim­ited by arthri­tis, con­sider us­ing a water pik to thor­oughly clean be­tween your teeth.

It’s pos­si­ble the bac­te­ria that cause and in­flam­ma­tion gums swelling of the also may con­trib­ute to sys­temic and in­flam­ma­tion nar­row­ing of the ar­ter­ies.

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