“Acute inflammatory response is often necessary to save your life, and yet chronic inflammatory response could lead to death,” because it’s been linked to everything from heart disease and stroke to Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and many other fatal conditions, Dr. Mark Kestner recently reported in an article titled, “Chronic inflammation will probably be what kills you.”
New studies tie a wide range of inflammatory conditions, including psoriasis, gum disease, and even childhood infections, to higher risk for heart attack. Conversely, a 2015 study of people who lived to age 100 or beyond found that low inflammation predicts healthier aging, with lower risk for cognitive decline and dependency.
“Suppression of chronic inflammation could be an essential step towards further improvements in the human healthy lifespan,” reported the researchers in EBioMedicine. The study included 1,554 people who underwent biomarker testing. Here are more discoveries about inflammation and how to reduce it.
Why Is Chronic Inflammation So Dangerous?
Acute inflammation is a protective response when we suffer an injury or infection, in which SWAT teams of white blood cell components are mobilized to battle the invading bacteria in a variety of ways, including releasing toxins to kill them. Once the threat is overcome, the attack stops.
Chronic inflammation harms instead of healing because the immune system attack never ends. It’s akin to being shot by “friendly fire” as tissues, including the lining of the blood vessels, are silently damaged, setting the stage for conditions like heart disease and stroke, two of the leading killers of Americans.
Nearly 50 percent of heart attacks and strokes–events caused by vulnerable plaque in the arteries–occur in people with normal cholesterol. Recent research suggests that inflammation is what explains this residual risk, both by contributing to the formation of vulnerable plaque and to its rupture, which can ignite a heart attack or stroke.
Simple blood and urine tests can measure levels of inflammatory biomarkers that may signal increased cardiovascular risk.
Three Science-Backed Ways to Fight Chronic Inflammation
New and recent studies suggest that these tactics may reduce chronic inflammation:
- Combine weight loss with vitamin D supplements. A 2015 study of more than 200 overweight middle-aged women who were low in vitamin D found that those who dropped pounds through diet and exercise, while also taking vitamin D supplements, had greater improvement in their levels of inflammatory biomarkers than that seen in women who only lost weight. Many Americans are low in vitamin D, which plays a role in protecting against heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and several forms of cancer. A blood test can reveal if you’re deficient in the sunshine vitamin.
- Spice up your meals with curcumin. The compound that gives the Indian spice turmeric (used in curry) its golden color, curcumin “shows strong anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activities when used as a remedy for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases,” including cardiovascular disease, according to a new review published in the journal Molecules. As we recently reported, the tasty spice is nearly as effective as a standard dental rinse for reducing symptoms of gum disease, including inflammation.
- Get a flu shot. The influenza vaccine may also help protect against heart attack and stroke, according to a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials that included nearly 7,000 participants (average age 67). Those who were immunized against flu were 55 percent less likely to suffer a cardiac event, even if they had already suffered a recent heart attack or stroke, compared to people given a placebo injection. The study authors suggest that inflammation from influenza may contribute to formation of vulnerable plaque in the arteries.