Even the healthiest of people experience inflammation. From bug bites to viral infections and conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and more, inflammation affects millions of people across the world in various ways. Experts estimate that joint diseases and arthritis alone, which cause painful inflammation, affect some 350 million people, or approximately twenty percent of the population. The bad news is that inflammation naturally increases with age. The good news is that there are several strategies that can be useful for reducing inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s natural defense against infection and its mechanism for healing damage from injuries, viruses or chronic illness. There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation occurs when the body experiences a flood of white blood cells due to sustaining an injury or contracting a virus. Chronic inflammation is associated with autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. In this scenario, the body incorrectly signals the presence of a virus or injury, resulting in the same flood of white blood cells. Inflammation may cause extreme discomfort and can have a significant impact on quality of life. New studies suggest that inflammation may even be a contributor to heart disease. Symptoms of inflammation vary, but may include the following:
- Excess fatigue
- Muscle muscles or joint pain
- Stomach issues
- Weight gain
Causes of Inflammation
Inflammation is somewhat insidious, and can actually affect a person’s body for a long time without being readily apparent. In fact, studies show that even low-grade inflammation is associated with unhealthy physical functioning, increased risk for diseases and even reduced longevity. Beyond the chronic conditions listed above, there are several items that can cause inflammation:
- Poor diet, including processed foods
- Lack of exercise
- Alcoholic beverages
- Lack of sleep, or poor sleep quality
- High levels of stress
Inflammation Reduction and Prevention Tactics
Although a number of treatments exist for inflammation, such as corticosteroids and immunotherapy, there is no actual cure. However, it is possible to reduce inflammation with certain strategies and lifestyle adjustments. Here are some suggestions that can be useful for reducing inflammation:
- Eliminate high-carb, processed foods. Certain foods have been shown to increase inflammation. It is best to avoid starchy, processed foods like bread and pastries, fried foods, red meat, margarine and sodas or other sugary drinks.
- Eliminate alcohol and nicotine.
- Increase intake of inflammatory-fighting foods. According to experts at the Harvard School of Public Health, consumption of certain foods can actually help fight inflammation. Anti-inflammatory foods are high in natural antioxidants and protective polyphenol compounds. Foods that fall into this category include:
- Olive oil
- Omega-3 rich fish, like salmon and tuna
- Strawberries, cherries and blueberries
- Almonds and walnuts
- Increase exercise. Exercise can go a long way toward fighting inflammation. Aim for 30 minutes of mild to moderate cardio, such as walking, per day. Incorporating exercise that involves stretching, such as yoga, can also help alleviate pain and discomfort while building muscle and improving balance.
- Improve quality of sleep. Getting a good night’s rest provides the body with an opportunity to rejuvenate. It can also help reduce stress and lead to better lifestyle choices.
- Reduce stress. Finding ways to cope with stress generally results in feeling healthier. In addition to getting quality rest, as mentioned above, experiment with different calming activities. Some suggestions are: meditation, reading, journaling, drawing or painting, listening to music or bird watching.
- Maintain a healthy weight. A doctor or trained nutritionist may be helpful in providing strategies for making healthy food choices and sustaining a regular exercise routine. Carrying additional weight can exacerbate inflammation.
At Lighthouse Senior Living we offer healthy and delicious dining options along with a wide variety of activities such as fitness classes, special craft sessions, daily “Socials in the Galley,” and performances and presentations by invited guests. Contact us to schedule a virtual tour or in-person tour of our communities, located in Howard County and Essex-Middle-River.