IS INFLAMMATION AFFECTING HOW YOU AGE?
Apr 19, 2012, 3:15 p.m.
Did you know that common signs of aging—wrinkles, loosening skin, weight gain, aches and pains—may have a common cause in low-level chronic inflammation? To maintain health and vitality over the years, it may help to understand and address the body’s basic inflammation process.
Consider this: Part of the body’s normal and natural inflammation process is the release of “reactive oxygen species”—often called free radicals—that serve to clean up damaged cells in the body. Free radicals are important for healing, but they can also damage healthy “bystander” cells if they are not quickly neutralized in turn by antioxidants. This damage to healthy cells is called “oxidative stress” and can be a detriment to total body health and youthfulness. Ongoing free radical damage to DNA molecules and cell membranes can really add up over time.
Free radicals work by “stealing” electrons from cells—whether invaders or the body’s own healthy cells. Antioxidant molecules, for their part, work by donating electrons to free radicals without becoming unstable themselves. An imbalance of free radical molecules to antioxidants creates oxidative stress and can cause chronic inflammation as the free radicals continue their destruction in the body, unchecked.
So how can you protect your healthy cells and your DNA from free radical damage? With a steady supply of powerful antioxidants. Our bodies actually produce their own antioxidants, but this process slows and diminishes with age. Slowing antioxidant action means oxidative stress can start damaging tissues, even causing visible changes. These changes happen to be common signs of aging—wrinkles, loss of elasticity in the skin, feeling inflammation in the joints. Worse, there is possibly inflammation going on where it can’t be felt—in the heart, brain, blood vessels, breasts, prostate—in fact in most systems of the body.
The key to successful aging is to encourage a healthy inflammation response—the full cycle with free radical action balanced by antioxidant action and returning to stability. Protecting our cells from free radical damage can benefit the whole body, from cardiovascular health to bone health, joint health, and skin health. Avoiding DNA damage can even help us promote normal cell growth.
So while there is no “cure” for the natural process of aging, the conscious and active control of low-level “silent” inflammation is now believed to have the potential to slow down the aging process. Antioxidants and holistic lifestyle changes may be part of the key.
What it comes down to is this: Inflammation is a normal process of the body, but long-term inflammation can noticeably affect how you age.
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