Guide to inflammation.
Inflammation plays significant role in major diseases including heart
disease, cancer, stroke and Alzheimer. Autistic disorder, lymphoma,
arthritis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, small fiber are all due to inflammation.
Researchers call it the "unifying theory" behind the major killers of our times, cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes -- as well as scores of other diseases.
It;s inflammation, which most people know by the red, painful swelling
that follows an injury, bug bite or other surface wound. But it also
exists in tissue far below the skin, and scientists are now convinced
this below-the-eye inflammation is the culprit that worsens many chronic
And while inflammation is the immune system;s response for beating back invaders in the body, inflammation gone awry can lead to heart attacks and strokes, aid cancers in turning deadly, cause Alzheimer;s disease by destroying brain cells, and usher in diabetes.
Out-of-kilter inflammation is also linked to clinical depression,
schizophrenia, Parkinson;s disease, asthma, osteoarthritis, liver
disease and hypertension, epilepsy among others disorders.
Some of the best evidence to date of inflammation;s crucial role in exacerbating chronic diseases comes from studies on cancer rates in patients who were counseled to lower their risk for a heart attack by regularly taking anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin. That population has a significantly lower rate of cancer, compared to a similar population not taking anti-inflammatory medicines, Coussens pointed out.
As another example of the beneficial effect of controlling inflammation with over-the-counter medicines, regular use of ibuprofen is associated with lowered rates of Alzheimer;s disease, noted Cynthia Lemere, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, who spoke at the San Francisco conference.
The chronic inflammation;s underlying role in many diseases gives added urgency to the well-known advice to maintain a healthful lifestyle, including getting adequate exercise and sleep, maintaining a balanced diet and avoiding undue STRESS.
Deficits in nutrition and sleep are linked to increased inflammation, as is excess stress. Among other benefits, exercise wards off weight gain, which can also triggers chronic inflammation.
And once a disease reaches a serious stage, there;s far less optimism among scientists that controlling inflammation can undo the damage.
"We;re all talking about prevention.
But there;s also excitement among researchers that if a disease is caught early enough, then taming inflammation could provide an effective tool for stopping the disease;s advance.
Chronic inflammation is caused by the persistent presence of pathogens and environmental pollutants, lifestyle and genetics, among others factors.
When the immune system is functioning normally, its front line fighters swiftly respond to any injury, such as a splinter puncturing the skin, or an invasion of microbes from a scrape or bug bite. These warriors, which go by names like natural killer cells and macrophages, shoot out an arsenal of chemicals, rip holes into cell walls of invaders, or even consume them whole.
But sometimes these immune cells ineffectively resort to chemical warfare against the plaque, which then destroy nearby brain cells. It;s this brain cell death that causes the symptoms of Alzheimer;s disease, including severe memory loss and mood swings.
Innate immune cells can cause cardiovascular disease by ingesting "bad cholesterol" that;s begun to literally go rancid. These immune cells can then get trapped in arterial walls, and contribute to plaque build up. They may also stay on the attack, causing chronic inflammation. The plaque can then break off due to inflammation, and form a blood clot that triggers a heart attack or stroke.
With Type 2 diabetes, molecules released by both innate immune cells and fat cells are implicated in interfering with the normal function of insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels.
When immune cells drop their armor after detecting danger has passed, they take on a healing role by secreting substances that promote blood vessel and tissue growth.
But tumor cells can send signals that confuse these immune cells, causing them to switch allegiance and aid and abet tumor growth instead of normal tissue growth. Tumors, like any other tissue, need a supply of oxygen and nutrients that;s provided by blood.
Most cancers don;t become deadly until they spread, or metastasize. Researchers believe it;s these hijacked immune cells that foster the spread of cancer. And if caught before the tumor has spread, anti-inflammatory treatment may be able to contain the tumor, creating the prospect of cancer becoming a manageable disease.