Inflammation: What is inflammation and how does it impact longevity?

By Kiran Kumar, September 29, 2022

Inflammation has a bad reputation. Yes, too much inflammation is troublesome and can lead to a string of age-related diseases. However, inflammation is also a highly critical process that doesn’t get nearly enough credit! So let’s take a closer look at what inflammation really is.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is a mechanism our bodies use to alert the immune system, prevent infection, and repair damage. It’s our first line of defense against bacterial and fungal invasion.

Let’s say you get a paper cut. Since your skin is no longer there to fend off intruders, they come strolling in. This sends neighboring cells into panic mode. The same way we dial 911 to call the police, injured cells use certain chemicals (e.g. histamine) to alert the immune system. These chemicals are referred to as inflammatory factors.

Once our immune system is up and running, it launches an army of white blood cells, or more specifically, inflammatory cells. These soldiers fight off the intruders and start the healing process. This mechanism is referred to as inflammation or the inflammatory response.

There are two main types of inflammation:

  • Acute inflammation. Any form of injury, illness, or infection is tackled with acute, or short-term, inflammation. Our paper cut example is also a form of acute inflammation.
  • Chronic inflammation. This form of inflammation is neither acute nor short-term. Chronic inflammation is when your cells consistently call 911, in the absence of a threat. So, your immune system continuously sends inflammatory cells to healthy tissue.1 Most of the issues associated with inflammation are a result of chronic inflammation.

Let’s take a closer look at the effects of inflammation.

What are the effects of inflammation?

Here are some physical indicators of inflammation:

  • Redness. When your immune system sends out inflammatory cells, blood flow toward the injured area increases. This leads to redness.
  • Swelling. Histamine, an inflammatory factor, enlarges the gaps between cells. This promotes water retention and swelling.

Diseases associated with chronic inflammation

Here are some of the diseases that are driven by chronic inflammation.

  • Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic neuroinflammation is a leading cause of Alzheimer’s disease In fact, anti-inflammatory treatments can reduce the risk of the disease by as much as 50%.3
  • Cancer. Free radicals are common byproducts of inflammation. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cellular DNA. Since DNA damage is the root cause of cancer, chronic inflammation promotes cancer.4 (Read about using antioxidants to fight free radicals here!)
  • Cardiovascular illness. It is unclear whether chronic inflammation promotes heart disease, but patients usually have higher levels of inflammation. Inflammation also contributes to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, a primary cause of heart attack and stroke.5
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is classified as an autoimmune disorder. This means that the immune system starts attacking healthy tissue. This is often triggered by chronic inflammation due to false signaling. In this disorder, the body sends inflammatory cells to your joints and attacks the nearby tissue and cartilage.6
  • Type II diabetes. Type II Diabetes is a result of resistance to insulin signaling. Inflammatory factors actively suppress insulin signaling pathways; obviously, this increases a cell’s resistance to insulin signaling.7

What causes chronic inflammation?

Chronic inflammation can be stimulated by several lifestyle factors:

  • Over-exertion or under-exertion
  • Over-indulging in alcohol
  • A critically high BMI
  • Chronic stress
  • Smoking 8

On top of that, factors that promote the accumulation of zombie cells also contribute to chronic inflammation. Zombie cells are damaged and contagious cells that secrete inflammatory factors in the body. They are the primary cause of many inflammation-associated disorders. 9

How to prevent chronic inflammation

Here are some lifestyle practices you can stick to, in order to avoid chronic inflammation:

  • Maintain a healthy BMI
  • Engage in moderate exercise daily
  • Try meditation for stress management
  • Contain alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking 8

In order to contain zombie cell accumulation, use sunscreen before stepping outside. And integrate antioxidant supplements into your regimen to avoid free radical accumulation.

Inflammageing: age-related inflammation

As we age, inflammatory factors increase in the bloodstream and we become more prone to chronic inflammation. In fact, due to the strong correlation between inflammation and aging, inflammation has been used as a marker of biological age.10 (Read more about measuring aging with biological age here!)

Inflammation is an important form of cell communication, and communication is key! In fact, unregulated cell communication is one of the nine reasons why we age. Chronic inflammation is clearly a form of unregulated cell communication and therefore accelerates this aging hallmark.11

How to measure inflammation?

Typically, inflammation is measured using a blood test, where you count the amount of C-reactive protein (CRP) in your bloodstream. However, CRP is a very old biomarker and is unable to pinpoint the specific site of inflammation. 12

Luckily, CRP levels are reflected in our epigenetics. Epigenetics refers to the layer on top of your genome. Epigenetics is responsible for modifying gene expression and are a terrific indicator of aging. In fact, epigenetic readings of CRP are far more effective at predicting chronic inflammation and pinpointing its specific site.13

That’s why your FOXO Longevity ReportTM will use epigenetic readings to give you an inflammation score, along with action strategies to help you improve! So, sign up for our newsletter for more details on our Longevity Report and science-backed insights on longevity and wellness.

Takeaways

  • Inflammation is a mechanism our bodies use to alert the immune system, prevent infection, and repair damage. It’s our first line of defense against bacterial and fungal invasion.
  • Acute Inflammation is harmless and short-term. Chronic inflammation is when your body continues to have an inflammatory response, without any threat. This can lead to several autoimmune disorders, neurological disorders, and cancers. It also accelerates aging.
  • Over-indulgence in alcohol, or smoking and a high BMI can increase your risk for chronic inflammation. Maintaining a healthy BMI, moderate exercise, and managing stress can reduce your risk for chronic inflammation.
  • Epigenetic readings for inflammation are very effective at predicting chronic inflammation and pinpointing its specific site. That’s why we use epigenetic readings in your FOXO Longevity Report!
References

1 https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/how-to-reduce-inflammation-as-you-age

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1074343/

3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6214864/

4 https://ascopost.com/issues/november-25-2018/inflammation-dna-damage-and-cancer/

5 https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/fight-inflammation-to-help-prevent-heart-disease

6 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/causes/

7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3992527/

8 https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21660-inflammation#

9 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33341947/

10 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3098911/

11 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3836174/

12 https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/treatments/erythrocyte-sedimentation-rate-c-reactive-protein-old-useful-biomarkers-pain-treatment

13 https://clinicalepigeneticsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13148-020-00903-8

 

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