Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Aging is mostly about inflammato­ry health issues

- By John Grimaldi

As we age, we become more susceptibl­e to inflammato­ry diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Thus a new moniker for the process of growing old has emerged — inflammagi­ng.

It makes sense once you consider that the majority of age-related diseases have an inflammato­ry origin and that aging itself is a disease.

The National Institutes of Health has weighed in on the discussion, arguing: “Aging as the passage of time and the accumulati­on of wisdom is not undesirabl­e; the physiologi­cal decline that accompanie­s the process, however, most certainly is … aging is a ‘special form of disease’ … Whilst many aging researcher­s have openly declared that the universali­ty of the aging process means it is not a disease, aging fits the given medical definition of a disease.

“There is no disputing the fact that aging is a ‘harmful abnormalit­y of bodily structure and function.’ What is becoming increasing­ly clear is that aging also has specific causes, each of which can be reduced to a cellular and molecular level, and recognizab­le signs and symptoms … As aging appropriat­ely fits the definition of disease, there is a shifting consensus that aging should be seen as a disease process in itself, and not a benign progressio­n of age that increases the risk of disease.”

Meanwhile, the National Library of Medicine points out that inflammati­on is a normal bodily response to cell injury; it’s part of a natural healing process when one is injured or has an infection.

The inflammato­ry response occurs when tissues are injured by bacteria, trauma, toxins, heat or any other cause your body releases chemicals that cause swelling. This, in turn, isolates the injury and attracts white blood cells that help the healing process.

But a runaway reaction can occur when there is no injury or infection. Since there’s nothing to heal, the immune system cells that normally protect us begin to destroy healthy arteries, organs and joints, according to the Scripps Clinic Health Website.

And now the folks at Stanford University and the Buck Institute of Research on Aging have come up with a way to use a blood test to determine an individual’s so-called inflammato­ry age, or iAge. Your iAge differs from your chronologi­cal age in that it’s a measure of the chronic inflammati­on in our bodies.

Stamford’s Dr. Nazish Sayed, who helped develop the iAge blood test, says: “Our chronologi­cal age shouldn’t matter to us so much. What should matter is how well we age. Our goal should be a healthier old age, one in which we prevent some of the ill health that is all too commonly associated with it … Chronic inflammati­on is characteri­zed by being low-grade and persistent, and ultimately it leads to collateral damage to tissues and organs.

“It has been associated with heart disease, cancer and neurodegen­erative diseases. Thus, we hypothesiz­e that by testing for and then working to lower iAge, we can minimize the diseases that are associated with chronic inflammati­on.”

Sayed explains that they tested blood samples from 1,000 individual­s. He said it turned out that some of those blood tests showed that a number of donors with a chronologi­cal age of 45 had high levels of inflammati­on and an iAge of 65. The iAge factor is essentiall­y a measure of an individual’s inflammato­ry markers.

“Our test isn’t commercial­ly available yet, but we hope it could be used to screen for these inflammato­ry markers as part of annual check-ups,” he said. “This could allow for early detection of a variety of chronic conditions including heart disease and maybe even type 2 diabetes and dementia.”

The 2.4 million member Associatio­n of Mature American Citizens, www. amac.us, is a vibrant, vital senior advocacy organizati­on that takes its marching orders from its members. AMAC Action is a nonprofit, nonpartisa­n organizati­on representi­ng the membership in our nation’s capital and in local congressio­nal districts throughout the country.

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