Chronic Inflammation Can Lead to Alzheimer's, Other Diseases

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Are you constantly stressing about the world’s economy, your job, or your caregiving chores? Do you smoke to try to ease your stress level? Are you ordering that double bacon-cheeseburger and an extra-large order of fries again for lunch? When you get home tonight after work, will you find that – just as you did the past couple weeks – you’re too tired to go out for a walk? And now that you think about it, are your pants – which you just bought a month ago – now getting really tight around the waistband?

    It turns out that you’re a strong candidate for having chronic inflammation, which down the road may trigger Alzheimer’s disease (as well as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer).  And, obviously, that’s not a good thing.  But instead of saying that we can put off worrying about chronic inflammation until tomorrow, we instead need to figure out what we can do to be proactive now in preventing chronic inflammation.

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    First of all, let’s discuss what inflammation is – and surprisingly, this body mechanism can be both good and bad. In a major article in the Wall Street Journal, reporter Laura Landro wrote, “Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and outside irritants.” How does inflammation work? “Responding instantly to biochemical distress signals from damaged tissue, specialized cells and proteins have already started to seal off the injured area, destroy damaged tissue and kill invading bacteria,” wrote Sally Pobojewski of the University of Michigan’s Medical School, adding that the pain, heat, swelling and redness indicate that the body’s response mechanism is working.

    However, inflammation can get out of control and become chronic when it persists or serves no specific purpose. Chronic inflammation is believed to damage brain cells and the heart, trigger insulin resistance that leads to diabetes and cause strokes.

    Landro noted that much of the research on chronic inflammation has focused on medications to deal with it. However, that’s beginning to change. “A growing body of research is revealing how abdominal fat and an unhealthy diet can lead to inflammation,” the reporter stated. “Some scientists are investigating how certain components in foods might help.”

    For instance, take your weight, especially if you’re obese. Landro noted that researchers in cardiology, endocrinology, nutrition and other specialties are increasingly linking obesity to inflammation-related diseases. Researchers have found that fat cells, especially those found around the belly, create molecules that stoke inflammation. However, losing weight (and thus, belly fat) can quickly reduce inflammation. And they also have found that dropping a few pounds can make a big difference in your inflammation levels. The Wall Street Journal reporter points out that even if you eat a healthy diet, being overweight or obese will offset the benefits found in the food.

    “If you want to cool off inflammation in the body, you must find the source,” Dr. Mark Hyman states on his website. “Treat the fire, not the smoke.” Some of his recommendations related to inflammation include the following:

    • Exercise regularly because it’s a natural anti-inflammatory.
    • Consume nutrients such as fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin D and probiotics that can naturally calm your immune response system.
    • Practice deep relaxation (yoga, deep breathing, massage or biofeedback) to ease stress. Stress can worsen the immune response system.

    In addition, specific foods may be able to help. Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietician at Cleveland Clinic recommends eating green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and Brussels sprouts that have specific anti-oxidants that can reduce body inflammation. She also suggests eating 100 percent whole grains can reduce inflammation.  Other recommendations include beans, peas, legumes and unsweetened almond milk, as well as herbs and spices such as turmeric and cinnamon. In her story, Landro pointed to scientists’ recommendations of eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and other oily fish, canola oil and flax seed), dietary fiber, as well as three daily servings of low-fat dairy as being helpful in the body’s fight against chronic inflammation.

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    So my point based on this post? All of the lifestyle choices I mentioned in the first paragraph are  choices that can lead to chronic inflammation, which, in turn, can lead to Alzheimer's disease. Isn't it better to change some of these now in order to potentially stave off Alzheimer's later? That, for me is an easy choice. What about you?

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Cleveland Clinic. (2012). 10 anti-inflammatory foods to know.

    Hyman, M. (2010). How to stop attacking yourself: 9 steps to heal autoimmune disease.

    Landro, L. (2012). The new science behind America’s deadliest diseases. The Wall Street Journal.

    Pobojewski, S. (2012). Inflammation: the good, the gad and the deadly. Medicine at Michigan. University of Michigan Medical School.

Published On: July 18, 2012