Inflammation: the hidden cause of our health problems?

Heart Disease

It's not just something that happens on the outside. Read about the dangers of hidden inflammation.


Helen Marsden

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Can we be inflamed without knowing it? Normally it is all too easy to spot inflammation – we’re red, swollen and often in pain. However, there is another type of chronic low-level inflammation that could be just as sinister in the impact that it can have on our health – and unless we get tested, most of us have no idea whether we are suffering from it or not.

Inflammation is caused by the body’s reaction to injury or infection. It is the immune system rushing to fight whatever the problem is. However, if inflammation continues it can become a problem.

It has recently been thought that chronic inflammation can lead to a host of illnesses including Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer. However, this isn’t the same as the inflammation caused by a sprained ankle or an allergic reaction, it is low-level internal inflammation that we cannot easily spot. The best way of measuring it is to look at the levels of High Sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) in the blood. This test detects even the lowest levels of inflammation and is thought to be a risk factor for heart disease.  However, it is now thought that inflammation doesn’t only affect the arteries and blood vessels to the heart, but also to the brain, eyes and other organs, and could be associated with many of the common diseases of ageing.

The cause of this inflammation is still up for debate, however it is largely thought to be as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle – a diet rich in trans fats and sugar (found in many processed foods) and lack of exercise. In addition, studies have found that overweight people have higher levels of inflammation due to their higher levels of visceral fat.

Anti-inflammatory drugs may be a short-term solution to reducing inflammation, but can cause health problems if taken for the longer term so are unlilely to be recommended by your GP. Many practitioners believe that the best way of reducing chronic low-level inflammation is by adopting a healthy diet low in inflammation stressors and high in antioxidents and “good” fats. Exercise is also thought to help as, although it causes short-term inflammation, may have long-term anti-inflammatory benefits.

If you are concerned about chronic inflammation, Medichecks is offering reduced-price hs-CRP home-to-lab blood test for only £39.

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