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How to Reduce Inflammation as You Age

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 18, 2021

If you’ve ever twisted your ankle, cut your finger, or been bitten by an ant, then you’ve experienced inflammation. Even illnesses like the flu or viral infections cause an inflammatory response from your body. But did you know that inflammation increases with age? The good news is that you can manage inflammation as you get older. A few simple changes in your lifestyle and diet can help you reduce inflammation.

What Is Inflammation?

When your body sustains damage of any kind, the area that is hurt may turn red, swell, and feel warm to the touch. Inflammation is your body’s way of fighting off infection and healing the damage.

There are two types of inflammation – acute and chronic:

Acute inflammation. This is a type of short-term inflammation that your body produces to address injuries, illnesses, and infections. When you sustain an injury or contract a virus, your white blood cells begin to flood the area to provide protection and healing. Symptoms of acute inflammation include redness, warmth, and swelling. Depending on the severity of your infliction, the inflammatory response will slowly fade away over hours or days.

Chronic inflammation. Your body’s response is the same as with acute inflammation, although there isn’t always an injury that needs healing. Instead, your body wrongly signals that there is an issue of some kind, leading to inflammation that is persistent. Chronic inflammation is typically less painful than acute inflammation and lasts for a longer amount of time.

Autoimmune disorders that are considered inflammatory include:

Chronic inflammation in seniors isn’t always obvious at first. It can impact your body internally while showing no outward symptoms until the condition worsens. Chronic inflammation is made worse by:

  • Smoking
  • Bad diet
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Too much stress
  • Weight gain
  • Not getting enough sleep

Signs of chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation manifests differently than acute inflammation. If you suspect chronic inflammation, watch for symptoms that include:

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Unexplained muscle aches and joint pain
  • Stomach issues including constipation or diarrhea
  • Gaining weight
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes

How Is Inflammation Treated?

Inflammation is common in seniors and is usually considered a symptom of a greater health condition. It is important to identify chronic inflammation early on to prevent long-term damage to your body. If you ever have concerns, talk to your doctor about what’s bothering you.

Your doctor will ask questions about what you’re experiencing and whether you suspect inflammation. Your doctor may ask for blood work and additional tests to determine the cause of your inflammation.

Medications for an inflammatory disease may include:

Corticosteroids. This is a type of drug that releases an anti-inflammatory hormone that works to offset tissue inflammation. It is usually prescribed for conditions like asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

Immunosuppressants. This is a type of drug that works to decrease your immune system’s response to perceived threats. It is often prescribed to treat eczema and rheumatoid arthritis.

Biologics. This type of drug is made from living organisms that are engineered to target the cells in your body that control your inflammatory response. It is often given to patients who suffer from asthma, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis.

Preventing Inflammation

If your inflammation isn’t severe, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes. While inflammation can’t be completely prevented, it can be managed with a healthy lifestyle.

You may be able to reduce inflammation without needing medication. If you want to avoid medication for treating inflammation, try making some lifestyle changes to improve your health such as:

Consider your diet. Try to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your diet every day. Think about foods like:

  • Fruits like cherries, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and oranges
  • Green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collards
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna
  • Healthy oils like olive oil

You’ll also need to eliminate inflammatory foods that are processed and high in added sugar. Limit these items in your diet:

  • Soda
  • Fried foods
  • White bread, cookies, and cakes
  • Red meat
  • Beverages that are sweetened with sugar

Change your lifestyle. Get 30 minutes of cardio five days a week and try to incorporate strength training two days per week. You can also:

  • Manage your weight and take steps to lose weight if needed
  • Get enough sleep each night
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce your stress

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Harvard Medical School: “All about inflammation,” “Foods that fight inflammation."

John Hopkins Medicine: “Fight Inflammation to Help Prevent Heart Disease.”

Journal of Aging and Disease: “Redefining Chronic Inflammation in Aging and Age-Related Diseases: Proposal of the Senoinflammation Concept.”

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