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Fight inflammation now, because a study linked chronic cases to frailty in old age


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Photo: Stocksy/Natasa Mandic

As if it weren’t enough that inflammation is connected to diseases of the gut, it can cause skin-care woes, and even can negatively affect your tastebuds, new research provides a new ominous reason to not ignore the no-fun condition. It could lead to poorer health in the future—particularly an increased risk of frailty due to the decline of mobility and muscles.

In a study published in the Journal of Gerontology, researchers followed 5,760 Americans for 24 years, from the time they were in middle adulthood (the mean age was 52) to late adulthood. They found that every instance of higher inflammation the participants had in their midlife—which was measured by five markers in the bloodstream (like white blood cell count)—put them at a 39 percent higher risk of frailty 24 years later. Those who had high levels of inflammation in middle adulthood had a 9 percent prevalence of frailty in late adulthood; comparatively, those who had low levels in middle adulthood had nearly half that, a 4 to 5 percent prevalence, by the time they hit their golden years.

Every instance of higher inflammation the participants had in middle age put them at a 39 percent higher risk of frailty 24 years later.

“Middle adulthood may be an especially important period for poor health in older adults for multiple reasons,” lead study author Keenan Walker, PhD, says in a press release. “First, it is in middle age when the incidence of common chronic diseases, such as diabetes, begins to accelerate. Second, compared to individuals who develop systemic disease and inflammation in later life, individuals who develop these conditions in midlife may have a longer exposure and therefore are more susceptible to deleterious physiological effects.”

The researchers admit that this study does not show causality, meaning that though there is a link between inflammation and frailty, they can’t be sure that inflammation leads to frailty. So additional research is needed before doctors can confidently suggest biomarker screenings as a preventative measure to assess people’s likelihood for frailty in old age.

But since inflammation is linked to a slew of health issues, like your mental health and cardiovascular issues, why not work to keep the condition at bay? To start, take your supplements—including omega-3 fatty acidsvitamin D3, and curcumin—hang out in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, add rosemary to your meals, and drink wellness beverages on the reg.

By setting yourself up for success now, hopefully you’ll still be running marathons and pumping iron when you’re in your eighties. (Hey—anything is possible!)

Here’s how dark chocolate could help reduce inflammation. Also, find out why some inflammation might actually be good for you.

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