According to the World Health Organization, chronic disease is ranked as the greatest threat to human health, and it is expected to get worse over the next 30 years in the United States. In 2014, it was estimated that nearly 60% of Americans had at least one chronic condition.
Inflammation that lasts months to years is known as chronic inflammation and can lead to tissue and organ damage. Chronic inflammation in the body is the root cause of most chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, allergic asthma, COPD, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic kidney disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
Risk factors that promote inflammation include:
- High intake of saturated and trans fats
- High consumption of refined carbohydrates
- High stress
- Sleep disorders
- Low sex hormones
Common symptoms of chronic inflammation include:
- Body pain
- Chronic fatigue and insomnia
- Depression and anxiety
- Gastrointestinal complications
- Frequent infections
- Weight gain or loss
Dietary and lifestyle factors that help to reduce risk include:
- Weight loss that is sustained
- Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, cherries, apples, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and green leafy veggies
- A high fiber diet
- Consumption of green and black tea
- Omega-3 rich diet (fatty fish)
- Foods rich in magnesium (tofu, avocados, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, yogurt, spinach and dark chocolate)
- Regular physical activity to help with weight maintenance
- Reduction in stress
- Quality sleep
If you have a chronic disease and want to learn more about behavior changes to reduce inflammation in the body for the long haul, contact a dietitian or other healthcare professional. It is never too late to make positive changes toward your health.
Bridgette Bostic, R.D.N., L.D.N., is the community nutrition educator at the Tevis Center for Wellness.