5 severe diseases linked to chronic inflammation - and how to avoid them

The problem with Chronic Inflammation

There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. 

We are all familiar with acute inflammation. This is the redness, swelling, and pain around tissues and joints that occurs in response to an injury, like when you cut yourself. When the body is injured, your immune system releases white blood cells to surround and protect the area.

Acute inflammation is how your body fights infections and helps speed up the healing process. In this way, inflammation is good because it protects the body.

In contrast, chronic inflammation is when inflammation gets turned up too high and lingers for a long time.

Research has shown that chronic inflammation is linked to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

Heart attack and stroke

Inflammation can promote the growth of plaques (fatty deposits) in your arteries. It can cause plaque to loosen and trigger blood clots - the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes.

When a blood clot blocks an artery to the heart, you have a heart attack. If the blood clot blocks an artery to the brain, the result is a stroke.

In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds, and someone dies of a stroke every 4 minutes. (1, 2, 3).

Cancer

Many cancers arise from sites of infection, chronic irritation and inflammation. Cancerous cells proliferate in microenvironments rich in inflammatory cells. Chronic inflammation can damage DNA. The inflammatory process also produces molecules called cytokines, which stimulate the growth of blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to tumors. These effects of inflammation sustain and fuel cancer growth. 

As many as one in five cancers are believed to be caused by or promoted by inflammation. Almost 40% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes. (4, 5, 6).

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes dementia (loss of memory) and decline in cognitive function (mental abilities including learning, thinking, reasoning, problem solving, decision making, and attention). 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a study in the journal Neurology, higher levels of inflammation were most strongly associated with declines in memory. It implicated inflammation in memory disorders, and specifically Alzheimer's disease. 

Another study found that people with high levels of inflammation during middle age have smaller brain volumes, particularly in regions involved in memory, such as the hippocampus. (7, 8).

Diabetes

Low-grade systemic inflammation precedes and predicts the development of diabetes. A National Institute of Diabetes study has shown that diabetes is an inflammatory as well as a metabolic disease. 

Diabetes can cause high blood pressure, lead to blindness, and damage your kidneys. Over 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, and 1 in 3 are prediabetic.

As type 2 diabetes starts to develop, the body becomes less sensitive to insulin and the resulting insulin resistance also leads to inflammation. A vicious cycle can result, with more inflammation causing more insulin resistance and vice versa. Blood sugar levels creep higher and higher, eventually resulting in type 2 diabetes. (9, 10).

Arthritis

Arthritis is inflammation in and around the body’s joints. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability among Americans aged 15 and older. There are several types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis is the most common. More than 27 million people in the United States have osteoarthritis. 

Chronic low-grade inflammation is a major driver of joint degeneration. The development of chronic inflammation in osteoarthritis following joint trauma or overuse is a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle of local tissue damage, inflammation, and repair, such that the osteoarthritis joint has been likened to a chronic wound. (11).

What you can do avoid chronic inflammation

Move more

Avoid sitting for prolonged periods. Use a standing desk for work. Walk, jog, sprint, swim, or bike 3 days a week. Lift, push, and move heavy weights 3 days a week.

Manage stress

Chronic stress contributes to inflammation. Meditate, do yoga, or simply take a walk in nature to reduce stress.

Load up on anti-inflammatory foods

All types of berries, cherries, plums, grapes, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, broccoli, tomatoes, olive oil, and nuts - eat these anti-inflammatory foods regularly.

Enjoy turmeric, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, and cloves - these foods have exceptionally high anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Here at Golden, we call these Essential Foods.

This smoothie has many of the Essential Foods in it. Make it a regular part of your meal plan. Golden bars are a great way to get a dose of Essential Foods before or after workouts, or between meals. (12).

Learn more about the role of free radicals in chronic and degenerative diseases here.

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