Low-Level Inflammation

One of the most important defense mechanisms in the body is inflammation. It is a key to survival but at the same time appears to add to the pace of aging and the speed of the onset of degenerative diseases.

Inflammation is the immune systems primary response to irritation and infection. It would not be possible to live without inflammation as it protects the body from dangerous microorganisms. People which suppressed inflammation capacity can easily develop fatal infections from what are usually innocuous microorganisms. Inflammation is a combination of a number of bodily responses that are meant to slow down or destroy dangerous pathogens.

A variety of phenomena characterize the process of inflammation. These include the raised level of local blood flow, migration and activation of the immune cells and a release of concentrated numbers of free radicals as well as the destruction of healthy tissue and the building of scar tissue.

In an ideal world, inflammation cleans out infection and then subsides in order to allow the normal tissue to be rebuilt. If the infection is not cleared up then the inflammation can become chronic and remain for weeks and possibly even years. It is possible for chronic inflammation to exist without a severe infection - this can be either because the body's inflammation mechanism has become overly sensitive or because the immune system perceives some of the body's own tissues as being foreign matter. Both forms of chronic inflammation can be associated with aging. As we get older we often develop autoimmune conditions as well as other kinds of chronic inflammation. Older people often have low grade inflammation and /or mild autoimmune disorders. Chronic inflammation adds to the acceleration the aging process by flooding the tissues with free radicals which destroy normal cells. Like most processes of aging, chronic inflation is cyclical. The level of chronic inflammation increases the speed of aging and aging raises the levels of chronic inflammation.

Many different tissues are affected by chronic inflammation. It is particularly severe in the cardiovascular and nervous systems. These are the two most vital systems for human survival. One of the key risk factors for heart disease and stroke is indeed inflammation. Inflammation is more threatening than high levels of cholesterol or homocysteine. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's can also be attributed at least in part to inflammation.

Maintaining healthy levels of inflammation should be a key part of anyone's anti aging plan. It is important to recognize that some people are more liable to chronic inflammation than other. Therefore, your initial step should be to figure out the level of inflammation in your body.

Maintaining healthy levels of inflammation should be a key part of anyone's anti aging plan. It is important to recognize that some people are more liable to chronic inflammation than other. Therefore, your initial step should be to figure out the level of inflammation in your body.

CRP levels correlate with cardiovascular risk as follows:

  • Less than 1 mg/L (low risk)
  • 1-3 mg/L (medium risk)
  • Greater than 3 mg/L (high risk)

Neopterin, MMP-9 (matrix metalloproteinase-9), and sICAM (soluble intercellular adhesion molecules) are all inflammation markers that are known to be related to cardiovascular problems. It is not as easy to test for the markers of problems of inflammation related to the nervous system as it is with the cardiovascular system, although often if inflammation exists in one it exists in both. There are some very specialized tests for certain immune mediators which are related to various forms of inflammation. Obesity can often increase levels of IL-6, IL-8 and TNF-a all of which are immune mediators that are associated with inflammation.

If you are suffering from high levels of inflammation then it is important to take the appropriate measures to lower them both for the sake of your health as well as your longevity. If you are over 40 it is a good idea to take some basic steps to control inflammation even with normal levels of inflammatory markers.

Simple ways to keep inflammation levels low include:

  • Good dental hygiene. Gum infections of even a low grade of severity can have a negative effect on heart disease as well as other conditions
  • Exercise. It has been shown that regular exercise can help to improve low grade chronic inflammation. (You need to be careful if you have acute chronic inflammation as exercise can exacerbate this condition)
  • Weight loss. Being overweight has been shown to raise the level of inflammation in the body. Keeping your weight at the idea BMI (Body Mass Index) will help to keep inflammation at healthy levels.
  • Not smoking. The free radicals produced by the by-products of smoking can cause high levels of inflammation and other problems.
  • Diet. What you eat has a major effect on the level of inflammation in your body. Eating low levels of Trans and saturated fats; increasing the amount of omega-3 in your diet (found in fish, fish oil and flaxseed oil); and increasing your intake of multicolored fresh vegetables and fruit can help keep inflammation in check. An anti-inflammatory diet should also be rich in fiber and low glycemic foods. Research has shown that meat can at times be pre-inflammatory. To lower inflammation levels if can be helpful to eat a lot of fish, beans, soy and nuts in the place of meat as sources of protein.

Additional steps to maintain healthy levels of inflammation can include: remedies (both natural and synthetic) that deal with the individual types of inflammation. Each remedy has its own pluses and minuses. Some examples are: COX-inhibitors (e.g. aspirin), statins (e.g. lipitor), proteases (e.g. serrapepditase, nattokinase, and bromelain), LOX-inhibitors (e.g. acetyl-boswellic acid) and others. At this time none of these have been proved for to act as effective anti-aging or life extending solutions.

Aging is a complex set of processes that involve a diverse set of conditions and reactions. This is why the aging process has been very difficult to define; it is also why there are multiple theories on the process of aging. The processes of aging can be divided into two groups: the amassing of various degrees of damage to the cells and the genetically programmed process of aging.
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Could aging be explained as what happens once cells have reached the Hayflick limit and are no longer able to divide? There is no conclusive answer to that question at this time. It seems that in certain tissues, including the skin and the lining of blood vessels the Hayflick limit may be a key to the aging process.
Is there a centralized aging clock in humans that dictates the pace at which all of the bodily systems run? Yes and No... Studies have not yet found a specific central mechanism that is solely responsible for aging. However, there is a system of development.
Certain substances that contribute to the aging process can be avoided. A good example of this is tobacco tar. Other contributory substances are not as easily avoided as they are key parts of the metabolism. The best example of this is glucose.
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The body's metabolism produces waste on a regular basis. The majority of bodily waste is expelled through breathing, urine, feces and sweat. The most easily disposable waste is that which is composed of small molecules like urea, carbon dioxide and electrolytes.
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There are two commonly asked questions about the lifespan of humans. The first is why does the rate of aging differ so dramatically among different species of animals? The second one is why are there more short lived species than long lived ones?
Research on the prolonging of life, studies of people over 100, historical records, and common sense all show us that to live a long life you need to do at least some of the steps in this article.
The greater our comprehension of the aging process the more ways that scientists find to try to extend the average life span. Ironically, the most effective means of anti-aging intervention has been the same for the past 50 years; eating less!!