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Aging and Reducing Inflammation

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Older adults (those over 60 years old) are a rapidly growing population, having more than doubled since 1980 and projected to double again by 2050. Chronic inflammation is a major underlying condition of many age-related diseases, such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, dementia, vascular diseases, and obesity. As such, chronic inflammation has become a growing public health issue, since the older adult population is growing and many inflammatory diseases are affecting more and more younger adults.

Traditional efforts, such as NSAIDs, to reduce and control inflammation can leave the users susceptible to disease and impair proper healing. There is a great challenge in developing interventions for inflammation while diminishing the consequences associated with inflammatory illnesses.

Therefore, it’s important to create healthy patterns in your life that can prevent acute and chronic inflammation from becoming problematic. The following protocols are applicable for anyone looking to improve their health, but are especially efficacious in reducing age related inflammation.

There are two primary models for reducing age related inflammation: healthy eating and calorie restriction, and physical exercise. Research has substantiated the importance of these activities to reduce negative inflammatory processes to prevent age-related chronic diseases. To understand why these lifestyle choices are so important, we need to unpack the redox status. Put simply, the redox status is the balance between oxidants (or pro-oxidants) and antioxidants. In order to maintain a healthy status, oxidants and antioxidants should be in equilibrium.

Regular exercise is a well known tool to increase overall antioxidant defense systems, helping to maintain a healthy redox status and reduce inflammation. Walking is one of the best exercises to reduce inflammation. A study recently published online in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, found a 20-minute session of moderate exercise such as walking, yoga, cycling, running, and resistance training can stimulate the immune system, producing an anti-inflammatory cellular response.

Our diets have become recognized as one of the most important ways to prevent and reduce symptoms of inflammation. Some foods are more prone to causing inflammation such as:

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries

  • French fries and other fried foods

  • Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages

  • Processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)

  • Margarine, shortening, and lard

These foods also contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation. Yet in several studies, even after researchers took weight into account, the link between foods and inflammation remained, which suggests weight gain isn’t the sole driver.

When shopping, remember to think about what your diet needs to remain healthy. Along with eating a proper diet, caloric intake also seems to make a difference. Restricting calories by 25 percent in healthy non-obese individuals over two years, while maintaining adequate protein, vitamin, and mineral intake, can significantly lower markers of chronic inflammation without negatively affecting other parts of the immune system. Consider:

  • fiber found in fruits, vegetables, and especially legumes and whole grains such as barley, oats, and bran

  • omega-3 fatty acids found in fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna), vegetable oils (flaxseed and canola), walnuts, flaxseeds, and leafy green vegetables (spinach and kale)

  • polyphenols (plant chemicals) found in berries, dark chocolate, tea, apples, citrus, onions, soybeans, and coffee

  • unsaturated fats found in almonds, pecans, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and plant oils (olive, peanut, canola).

Regular exercise, eating the correct foods, controlling the amount of inflammatory agents in your diet, and consuming a moderated amount of calories is important at any age, but especially as you grow older. It is recommended that you consult with a physician before attempting any sort of dietary modifications to ensure you are consistently receiving enough calories, minerals, and micronutrients.

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