Inflamm-aging: Your 5-Minute Guide

“Inflamm-aging” or “inflammaging” is a type of inflammation that happens as you age. Research suggests that this mild form of age-related inflammation may be why we’re more likely to develop health conditions as we get older.

While you can’t stop the aging process, you can take steps to ensure that you’re aging well. One of the ways to do this is to manage inflammation.

Acute inflammation is vital for the body’s healing process, but chronic inflammation can trigger a variety of common diseases that appear as we get older, including Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

By managing chronic inflammation with healthy lifestyle habits, you may be able to avoid or slow the progression of inflammation-related chronic conditions.

Read on to learn how to make reducing inflammation part of your roadmap for aging gracefully.

Modifying your diet to include foods packed with antioxidants and polyphenols can play a positive role in managing inflammation.

Foods you may want to avoid, that can cause inflammation include:

  • refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pastries
  • high fat dairy
  • fried foods
  • red and processed meats

A 2018 study suggested a relationship between lower levels of inflammation and eating a Mediterranean diet, which includes the following anti-inflammatory foods:

  • fruits, such as blueberries, cherries, oranges, and strawberries
  • fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines
  • leafy greens, such as kale and spinach
  • nuts, such as almonds and walnuts
  • olive oil
  • tomatoes
  • whole grains

It’s important to note that not all medical experts agree on the concept of an anti-inflammatory diet. But most do agree that it’s a good idea to eat lots of whole foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and to avoid high sugar and processed foods.

Read more about anti-inflammatory foods.

We already know that exercise can help prevent or even reverse the effects of certain diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity.

A large body of research has also looked at the correlation between physical activity and inflammation. A 2020 study suggested that regular exercise is a natural anti-inflammatory agent that can prevent or delay chronic inflammation as you age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that older adults strive to get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week, plus muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days of the week.

But any exercise is better than no exercise, so any amount you can manage is positive.

Here are a few ideas for staying active:

  • Take a brisk walk or bike ride with a friend.
  • Do some stretching or gentle yoga.
  • Go for a swim or try water aerobics.
  • Follow along with one of the thousands of free workout videos on YouTube.

Keep in mind that it’s important to consult with a doctor before starting a new workout.

Learn more by reading this exercise plan for older people.

Limiting stress can help tamp down inflammation. Chronic stress can trigger the fight, flight, or freeze response, causing the body to release pro-inflammatory cytokines that can cause inflammation throughout the body.

A few stress-reduction activities to try:

  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation has a reputation for stress reduction. Turn down the volume and focus on your senses with a quick guided meditation or mindful walk.
  • Spend time with supportive loved ones. Surrounding yourself with a positive and strong social network has numerous positive effects, including reduced stress and increased longevity.
  • Engage in enjoyable activities. Finding activities that bring you joy can help offset daily stress. A few options: Volunteer, take up a new hobby, play a team sport, or explore nature.
  • Focus on deep breathing. This relaxation technique can be done anywhere. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a popular deep breathing exercise that involves inhaling slowly through the nose for at least 4 seconds, holding for 3 to 7 seconds, and deeply exhaling for 4 to 8 seconds.

Read more about how to eliminate stress.

While eating a colorful, whole-food diet is important for your overall health, some people swear by supplements to ward off inflam-aging.

Evidence suggests that fish oil may have anti-inflammatory properties. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the two main omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil that may be linked to these effects.

Some people take other supplements to reduce inflammation, but there’s limited or inconclusive evidence to support their use as anti-inflammatories. These include:

  • alpha lipoic acid
  • cayenne
  • curcumin
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • resveratrol
  • spirulina
  • turmeric

Always consult your doctor before trying vitamins and supplements since they may interact with medications or not be right for you if you have a certain medical condition.

Read more about supplements that may help with inflammation.

Research has shown that chronic inflammation can lead to arthritis as well as other types of degenerative joint disease. Inflammation-aging can cause joint swelling, increased joint fluid, bone and cartilage damage, and muscle loss.

Luckily, many of the same things that tame inflamm-aging also benefit your joints, including:

  • eating a healthy, whole-food diet
  • doing a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training
  • practicing relaxation techniques to calm your mind and slow down your body

Read more about cartilage, joints, and the aging process.

You can start making changes to prevent several age-related diseases today.

But you don’t need to completely revamp your routine. Start small. For example, commit to a morning walk or start a 5-minute meditation practice.

If you’re concerned about how inflammation-aging is affecting you, talk to a healthcare professional for more tips on reducing inflammation and easing some of the effects of aging.

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