March 14, 2014

Inflammation and Aging

Inflammation and the Aging Process

Inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases including high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and plenty more. But, a recent study from Yale School of Medicine showed that even in the absence of disease that inflammation leads to loss of organ function reducing the years we live free of disease. The period we live free of serious disease is sometimes called “healthspan”.

The functional decline induced by inflammation presents as insulin resistance, bone loss, cognitive decline, and frailty. So how are inflammation and aging linked?

Inflammation and Aging

Our cells change as we age sometimes causing the immune system to activate the inflammatory process at a low level or what is sometimes known as silent inflammation. You don’t feel it, but it’s there, and it’s there creating problems.

One possible way to combat aging may be to prevent the triggers of inflammation. The Yale researchers found that the immune sensor Nlrp3 inflammasome is activated in mice in response to aging. They discovered that if Nlrp3 inflammasome activity is reduced that inflammation is lowered age related decline in function is also lowered.

Mice with lower Nlrp3 inflammasome activity were less likely to develop dementia, bone loss, and insulin resistance. They were also able to run longer and were less frail than mice with higher Nlrp3 inflammasome activity.

By inhibiting Nlrp3 activity inflammation can be reduced increasing the number of years of quality life – increasing the healthspan. As we said in this post that delaying aging (in this case by reducing inflammation) provides more health and cost benefits as does treating individual chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. And, blocking inflammation would be one way to delay aging.

Reducing Inflammation

A better way of dealing with inflammation is to prevent it from occurring at all and you can do that by how you eat. Insulin is an inflammatory hormone. Keep insulin levels low by eating low glycemic foods. Eat more foods high in omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties. Fish oil is an excellent way of getting adequate omega-3 fatty acids.

Exercise can have anti-inflammatory effects in part because it improves insulin sensitivity meaning it takes less insulin to get the job done driving glucose into the cells.

Control your stress level. Stress leads to excess cortisol production and too much cortisol is inflammatory.

If you want to extend your health span – those years lived free of disease and disability – then you need to prevent and reduce inflammation in your body.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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