There are many risk factors we know to watch out for in our quest for good health. High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high blood sugar. Yet there’s another red flag that many people don’t even know about—chronic inflammation.
Sometimes inflammation can be good. When we injure ourselves it causes our immune systems to start the healing process. When this inflammation becomes chronic, however, it can go from being a hero to a villain.
Various studies have shown chronic inflammation can contribute to everything from heart disease, diabetes and strokes to cancer and even Alzheimer’s Disease. How exactly this happens is still under investigation but one suspected culprit is being overweight and especially having extra belly fat.
Much more research needs to be done both to understand the causes of chronic inflammation and effective treatments. There are, however, some things we can begin doing today.
- Lose weight if necessary. Researchers found for each 2.2 pounds of weight lost, levels of C-reactive protein which measures the amount of inflammation in the body decreases on average 0.13 milligrams per liter. (Less than 1 mg/L of C-reactive protein translates to a low risk of cardiovascular disease, 1 to 3 mg/L indicates a moderate risk and more than 3 mg/L means a high risk.) Every little bit helps.
- Consume more omega-3s and omega-6s. Researchers are still studying what role these fatty acids play in chronic inflammation but the American Heart Association recommends being sure to get both. Omega-3s can be found in salmon and other cold water fish along with canola oil while omega-6s are in seeds, nuts and vegetable oils. Both can also be found in supplement form.
- Keep an eye on the fiber. Increasing fiber intake may also help lower inflammation. Again, experts aren’t sure yet why though one theory involves the fact that fiber can help lessen insulin sensitivity which can then decrease inflammation. Fiber is found in whole grains, beans and nuts along with many fruits and vegetables. There are also fiber supplements available.
Additional Self-Care Therapies
- Eat more dairy. Dairy may also help reduce inflammation with one study showing people who consumed 3.5 servings a day for 12 weeks had less inflammation and lower blood pressure than individuals who only ate half a serving each day.
Professional Care Therapies
- There are no medications available at this time to reduce inflammation. It is possible, however, for the C-reactive protein level to be tested to help get a sense of inflammation levels.
- Interactions with other medications can result from vitamins and supplements so be sure to check with a physician before taking anything new.
- Anyone increasing their fiber intake should do so gradually so as not to cause temporary digestive issues.
Chronic inflammation can contribute to a variety of serious health problems. A combination of weight loss if necessary and consuming the right omega-3s and 6s along with fiber and dairy may help keep it at bay.
By Kristen Stewart
Kristen is an Associate Editor for WholesomeOne. She's also is a mother of 3 and freelance writer that focuses on health and parenting.
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Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/4222532649/