Chronic Inflammation in Seniors Can Be Deadly

Chronic Inflammation in Seniors Can Be Deadly

Inflammation can be a beneficial action of the immune system. You are probably quite familiar with it. If you have ever had a wound of some kind, you’ve experienced redness and swelling. That is your body’s response to injury. When you feel swelling in your ankle after taking a hard fall or notice redness around a wound that isn’t healing well, that’s “acute” inflammation.

When this happens, it’s your immune system going into overdrive to heal the injury or wound and get you back to normal. When that sprained ankle or cut on your finger heals up, the inflammation goes away, and you are right as rain again.


But chronic inflammation is a different story.


Chronic inflammation doesn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason. It can begin in the absence of any injury at all. And rather than only stick around until you are better, it never actually goes away. It is simply there all the time, working at a low level in the background. The result is that your immune system is constantly revved up.


And that leads to serious problems, especially for seniors.


What Causes Chronic Inflammation?


According to the Washington Post, more than half of all deaths worldwide are attributed to conditions related to inflammation.1  And unfortunately, most people don’t know they have chronic inflammation until they are already dealing with the consequences of it.


Over time, inflammation can lead to serious damage in the body. The inflammation that persists develops certain proteins throughout the body that enhance the inflammatory response, and those can damage tissues, blood vessels, DNA, and even bones.


It is believed that chronic inflammation leads to oxidative stress. This stress can best be described as a battle between free radicals, which are harmful molecules, and antioxidants, which help clean up those harmful molecules. As you have probably heard, free radicals play an integral part in speeding up biological aging.


Several serious conditions, including diabetes, arthritis, heart attack, or stroke, can have chronic inflammation as an underlying and silent trigger. The list of physical health conditions associated with chronic inflammation is long, but mental health conditions are also a by-product of it, including depression.


When you have acute inflammation, you know the signs: redness and swelling around an injury are a hallmark of it. But chronic inflammation is tougher to spot. You might simply feel fatigue, have joint pain or stiffness, abdominal pain or chest pain with no clear cause, a skin rash, or fever. Or there might be no signs at all beyond the moment when you are told you have a chronic illness or autoimmune disease.2


But what causes the immune system to go off the rails?


The Reasons Behind Chronic Inflammation


There could be many reasons. An abnormal immune reaction is a common reason. In fact, most people have no idea that they have chronic inflammation until they are diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, such as lupus or type 1 diabetes. It might happen because there is an infection that never actually resolved. Or it could be due to a host of lifestyle factors. And fortunately, seniors can control most of those.


Many of the lifestyle factors that make someone more prone to chronic inflammation are more common among the elderly. Nature Medicine reports that the following issues might be behind the over-active immune response:3

·        Social isolation. According to the CDC, social isolation and loneliness is associated with a much higher risk of dementia, depression, heart disease, stroke, and premature death. One in four of all Americans over the age of 65 are socially isolated.4 The stress of that situation might lead to chronic inflammation.

·        Psychological stress. Constant or severe stress can lead to a higher fight-or-flight response, which puts every system in your body on edge. That can trigger your immune system to stay on high alert, making low levels of inflammation continuously flow through you.

·        Not enough sleep. Sleep is when your body repairs itself. Without enough sleep, you aren’t providing your immune cells with enough energy to work effectively.

·        Chronic infections. If you have one infection after another, your immune system might always be on guard, ready to fight. That low-level inflammation stays in the “on” position while waiting for the next wave of infection to hit.

·        Poor diet. A diet full of refined sugars and flours, red meat, fried foods, and heavy desserts can increase inflammation. Unfortunately, that describes the typical American diet!

·        A sedentary lifestyle. Not getting enough movement in your day can make it tougher for your body to fight off a variety of problems, including those with circulation and blood flow. As the body fights this, inflammation might come into play in your veins and arteries.

·        Obesity. Carrying around too much weight can make it harder for the systems of your body to function properly. As your body tries to work at an optimum level, your immune system kicks in in an attempt to help.

·        Exposure to toxins. Few things will set off your immune system faster than cigarette smoke, air pollution, and other toxins that it sees as a serious threat. That’s why those who smoke, for instance, will almost always have some level of chronic inflammation that shows up on blood tests.

In some cases, the reasons that these lifestyle factors lead to chronic inflammation is pretty clear. For example, if you are a smoker, the lungs will be aggravated by all that smoke, and the immune system will try to fix it. This results in inflammation in the lungs. If you never stop smoking, that inflammation never has a chance to go away.

Because chronic inflammation can be so insidious, it’s important to be prepared well before you get a concerning diagnosis. An emergency button alarm for seniors can be your silent powerhouse of protection against accidents, medical emergencies, and falls. It’s important to have that safety net in place well before anything bad happens; you don’t want to be lying on the floor after a hard fall wishing you had chosen a panic button before the accident! Getting a medical alarm today can provide incredible peace of mind.

How to Fight Chronic Inflammation

While the acute, temporary inflammation that works to heal is quite beneficial and exactly what you want your body to be doing, the inflammation that never goes away is an entirely different story.

Start right now to fight chronic inflammation, even if you don’t have any signs of it yet. Why? Because not only does it creep up on you, it can accumulate a good amount of damage as it does. The premature aging your body goes through with chronic inflammation can lead to everything from cardiovascular events to physical pain to a decline in cognitive function.

Remember, when you are dealing with chronic inflammation, you have probably already had the issue for quite some time. To protect yourself against medical emergencies, as well as falls and accidents that could easily lead to medical problems, consider an alert system for elderly adults. These medical alert devices empower you to summon help at the touch of a button for any sort of problem.

Here are other ways to fight chronic inflammation:5

·        Eat the right food. An anti-inflammatory diet can be tasty and healthy for things other than your immune system. The Mediterranean diet is a good example of this. You should load up on foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, including oily fish (like mackerel or salmon), leafy greens, and olive oil.

·        Quit smoking. This is by far one of the biggest culprits for a body’s problems. Smoking affects every system of the body, and that sends your immune system into constant overdrive. Putting down the cigarettes (and other forms of smoking, vaping, and tobacco) can work wonders.

·        Get to a healthy weight. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, which breaks down into about 30 minutes a day. Combined with a healthy diet, you could lose weight at a healthy pace.

·        Take medications as directed. Some medications, especially those for the heart, actually reduce inflammation. Take these meds as directed, on time, every time.

·        Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol in moderation may be fine, depending on your health condition. But too much of a good thing can be very bad for inflammation levels. Two ounces of alcohol per day is the most that is recommended for those who are fighting inflammation.

·        Manage stress. Meditation and other stress-relieving techniques can ease the fight-or-flight response and help your body stay calm.

·        Take NSAIDs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, can help fight inflammation in the body. Your doctor will recommend which one (if any) you should take, and how much.

·        Try supplements. Some over-the-counter supplements, such as zinc, vitamin D, vitamin C, or fish oil, can reduce inflammation in the body. Always check with your doctor first! Not everything is good for everyone.

As you work to fight chronic inflammation and the problems it can cause, it’s a good idea to wear a medical alert pendant at all times. If you face any sort of medical emergency that might be brought on by chronic inflammation, such as a heart attack or stroke, the emergency button alarm is right there at your fingertips. The trained professionals at the monitoring center stand by ready to help, day or night, and will get you the assistance you need quickly. Fighting chronic inflammation and other conditions requires a proactive stance; let Alert1 Medical Alert Systems be a part of your solution.