Turning Up the Heat-Chronic Inflammation

by Dr. Enozia Vakil on  November 24, 2012 at 11:41 AM Health Watch
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The human body is a miracle, considering the hundreds and thousands of different processes being carried out all at once. The immune system, the integral part of the human body, plays an enormous role in survival, protecting the body from the attack of millions of infectious agents and foreign substances. It is this defense mechanism that helps the body to sustain and evolve, and helps it recover from disease.
Turning Up the Heat-Chronic Inflammation
Turning Up the Heat-Chronic Inflammation

Of the numerous different immune responses, inflammation acts as a highly efficient one. You may think of it as the tenderness that appears around a bruised knee or a burnt finger, but, in fact, it is much more than that. Inflammation is known to play an enormous role in defeating bacterial infections and destroying tumors. However, this life-saving action of the body does have its own negative aspects. Too much inflammation can cause harm to the body in more ways than one. Many researchers suggest that inflammation is a suspected, often disguised component of many major diseases.

I can't feel it, so why the fuss?

A tiny cut on your finger triggers a series of events that help deal the body with the damage. The blood flow increases to your finger, providing an abundance of WBC's (white blood cells) responsible for protection against infectious agents. Other proteins arrive at the site of injury to seal the area, preventing germs from spreading. The affected area then becomes warmer than the rest of your body, as a reaction to prevent growth of bacteria and to speed up recovery by increasing the metabolic rate of the damaged tissue. This is known as short-term inflammation. This inflammation, that overstays its welcome period is dangerous, and is causing quite a stir among the scientists, given that it is much more complex than short-term inflammation. It's not easy to detect chronic inflammation, it is heavily dangerous. You may not 'feel' it, but chronic inflammation does leave behind traces of its work, including a C-reactive protein, which shows up on a simple blood test.

CRP signals inflammation:

CRP (C-reactive protein) molecules are measured to diagnose or confirm the presence of inflammation. Researchers suggest that patients with prolonged elevated levels of CRP in blood are at a risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke. The CRP test is widely used as a marker for inflammation and has been in use for more than 20 years. A study done in 2009 shows that people with high CRP levels, such as those having rheumatoid arthritis and bloodstream infections, have a 30% greater risk of developing some form of cancer later in life.

Why flossing is important:

You may have passed it away as another myth, but now, studies have finally confirmed that dental health does have a role to play in maintaining your cardiac health. Researchers at the University of Queensland School of dentistry stress on the importance of oral care as a way to improve heart function. Without proper oral care, the gums tend to get inflamed, thus triggering the immune system to secrete proteins that travel to other parts of the body, including the heart. A recent study even suggests that patients having severe chronic periodonitis have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Is there a connection?

Heart disease: Though cholesterol is held responsible for heart disease, studies show that about half of all heart attack victims have normal cholesterol levels. Cardiologists claim that inflammation may be responsible for this 'cholesterol gap'. This fact, however, does not imply the safety of eating cholesterol-rich foods. Cholesterol deposits, smoking and high blood pressure cause the development of underlying plaque that thickens the arteries. What inflammation does is, it adds to the prosperity of this plaque, making the condition more severe than it would have normally been.

Alzheimer's disease: Scientists have found inflammation in parts of brain affected by Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. When affected by Alzheimer's, hard protein deposits get accumulated, which can be really hard to get rid of. Consumption of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID's) can keep inflammation levels in check.

Cancer: Studies show that chronic infection, a cause of inflammation is associated with 15% of cancers. Chronic irritation and inflammation, long-term exposure to silica, asbestos and cigarette smoke can greatly increase your cancer risk.

Diabetes: Research has found that inflammation is closely related to obesity and insulin resistance. Several large studies covering over 50,000 subjects found that women having chronic inflammation had a four-fold increase in their risk of type-2 diabetes.

Inflammatory disorders: Recent researches from the Harvard Medical School suggest a link between inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, gout and lupus with the heart. People having these diseases are twice likely to suffer from heart attack or cardiac arrest.

Protection on-the-go:

Having adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation to a noticeable extent. Also, fish, flaxseeds and walnuts are wonderful foods that control inflammation. Include more of these in your diet. Munch on dry fruits when you have a mid-day hunger pang and be sure to take supplements whenever you need.

Lifestyle changes:

Inflammation can be significantly reduced by the three cornerstones of good health-eating well, exercising, and giving up smoking. Simple lifestyle changes can make a great difference, especially in the long run.

Pile up on the fruits and veggies: Fresh fruits and vegetables always do good for your body. Be sure to stock up on them on your next trip to the supermarket. Load up the greenies and choose from bright reds, yellows and greens. These colored fruits and vegetables are packed full of carotenoids, a known anti-inflammatory. Also, antioxidants found in fruits fight free radicals which play a major role in causing inflammation. Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple is an amazing anti-inflammatory agent. One to two servings of these foods a day will help you combat your inflammation and keep away health issues that accompany it.

Avoid 'bad' fats: According to the New England Journal of Medicine, trans fats literally ignite inflammation and gram for gram, increase the risk of heart disease. Choosing saturated fats is a wiser option.

Spice it up: Indian people are known to be less susceptible to a handful of illnesses due to their generous use of spices in their dishes. Turmeric, a spice widely used in Indian food preparations has good amount of a powerful anti-inflammatory agent called Curcumin. Olive oil, black pepper and ginger are also good ingredients that help reduce inflammation. Include more of these in your dishes.

Go Mediterranean: Mediterranean diets are amazing at reducing inflammation due to their use of fresh vegetables and olive oil.

Quit smoking: One of the best ways for heavy smokers to reduce inflammation is to quit smoking. It makes a wonderful difference and cuts down inflammation levels almost instantly.

Get fit: Inactivity and inflammation are directly proportional. That's why it is important to have an active lifestyle and be free from addictions. Make it a point to exercise at least 20-30 minutes a day, 6 times a week.

Lose weight: Obese people are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular ailments and inflammatory disorders. Specialists at John Hopkins University found out that people carrying extra weight had higher levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood.

Source: Medindia

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