What the heck is “inflammaging?” Another thing to worry about?
Well, yes and no. It depends.
We all age. And it’s a complex process. But, research suggests that inflammation may be a strong contributor many age-related chronic diseases. Subtle, chronic low-grade inflammation that is a characteristic of aging is what scientists are calling “inflammaging.”
Now, because you are aging that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got chronic low-grade inflammation or that you will succumb to age-related chronic diseases. Inflammation naturally happens within the body as a way to heal against infections, injuries, or toxins. The problems start to happen when inflammation becomes chronic, and there are a number of factors that can contribute to chronic inflammation including autoimmune disorders or exposure to toxins.
What’s the relationship between aging and inflammation?
Okay, I’m going to get into a bit of biology here to further explain the connection between aging and inflammation so stay with me. Inflammation within our cells is a natural byproduct of the mitochondria. Think of mitochondria as little engines that generate energy for our cells. If you’re generally healthy, inflammation is a normal process that naturally and slowly ages your cells and mitochondria over time. This can be seen as the reason why the healthiest people sometimes live to be centenarians, but why activity levels and mobility naturally slow down as we all get on in years.
If your body is constantly living in a state of inflammation, the mitochondria have to work harder to generate the energy needed to deal with it. And, like an engine that runs on its highest gear for too long or simply runs endlessly, the mitochondria will burnout at a much faster rate.
Scientists are honing in on the role of inflammation in the aging process and are gaining new insights into how these two processes affect one another. The more they learn, the more we’ll know about the process but until then, is there anything we can do to slow or even stop this process?
Preventing and Reducing Inflammation
The best way to prevent and reduce inflammation is with nutrition. Yup. Adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet will make a difference. Why? They’re loaded with antioxidants. Along with adding all-stars to your diet like blueberries, spinach, and red-bell peppers, you want to limit or cut out processed foods like chips, cookies, sugar-sweetened beverages, and processed meats. There are well-established links between consuming these foods and obesity (also a risk factor for inflammation), heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
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There are other things you can do to bring down inflammation in your body like managing stress levels. Trying a number of techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, exercise and finding what works for you is worth it. We may not be able to live stress free lives but we can change our response by learning to manage stress better.
You can also move your body every day. The human body was made to move but unfortunately our modern lifestyles mean we’re sedentary for a lot of the day. In the journal, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, a review looked at 11 studies with data from 1,250 middle-aged and older adults, and the results showed that even low-intensity exercise reduced levels of major inflammatory markers up to 50%.
So you don’t need to worry about inflammaging if you are proactive about reducing the amount of inflammation in your body.
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