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How Chronic Inflammation Affects Older Adults

Inflammation is typically a protective response to injury or infection and is pivotal in maintaining our overall health. It’s usually caused when the immune system releases a cascade of chemicals, such as cytokines and white blood cells, to the affected area to aid in healing and recovery. This is known as acute inflammation, which can last from a few hours to several days.

However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can harm various bodily systems and lead to pain, discomfort, limited mobility, and much more. Older adults, in particular, need to watch for the signs of chronic inflammation and take steps to manage their condition.

What causes chronic inflammation in older people?

Chronic inflammation in older adults can result from various causes, including:

Weakened immune system
As we get older, our immune system becomes less effective at regulating inflammation, making us more susceptible to chronic inflammatory conditions as we age.

Poor lifestyle habits
Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as a diet high in processed foods, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a lack of physical activity, can promote chronic inflammation.

Underlying medical conditions
Common conditions in seniors, such as diabetes, obesity, or autoimmune disorders, can contribute to chronic inflammation and increase the risk of related health issues.

What are the signs of chronic inflammation?

Your older loved one might have chronic inflammation if they complain about one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling fatigued or having low energy all the time
  • Unexplained muscle aches and joint pain
  • Digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes

Suggest your loved one seek medical advice from their doctor, specialist, or healthcare team if any of the above symptoms occur.

How can chronic inflammation affect my older loved one’s health?

Chronic inflammation can have a severe effect on several aspects of your older loved one’s health and well-being, including:

Joint health
Joint health is a common concern for older adults. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are characterized by inflammation of the joints, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Chronic inflammation can erode joint cartilage, causing further discomfort and mobility issues.

Cardiovascular health
Older adults are at an increased risk of heart disease, and chronic inflammation plays a pivotal role in its development. Inflammation can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, which restricts blood flow and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Additionally, inflammation contributes to high blood pressure and can lead to congestive heart failure.

Cognitive decline
Chronic inflammation may also accelerate cognitive decline in older people. Progressive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are associated with increased levels of inflammation in the brain. Inflammatory markers can disrupt neural connections, leading to memory loss, cognitive impairment, and a decline in overall brain function.

Immune system
Older adults often have weaker immune systems, leaving them more susceptible to infections and illnesses. Chronic inflammation can further weaken the immune response, making it difficult for older people to fight off common ailments like the flu or pneumonia and potentially prolong illness and discomfort.

Bone health
Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weakened bones, is common among older adults. Chronic inflammation can contribute to bone loss by disrupting the balance between bone formation and resorption. This increases the risk of fractures and can decrease overall mobility and quality of life.

How to manage chronic inflammation in older people

Given the adverse effects of chronic inflammation on seniors, exploring strategies for managing and reducing inflammation is crucial. Here are some ways your loved one can live more comfortably with chronic inflammation:

Improve nutrition
A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help reduce inflammation. Foods high in antioxidants, such as berries and leafy greens, can combat oxidative stress associated with chronic inflammation.

Exercise regularly
Physical activity can help reduce inflammation by improving circulation and promoting a healthy weight. Older people should regularly engage in a combination of aerobic exercises, strength training, and flexibility exercises tailored to their abilities.

Take medication
In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage inflammation, especially for older people with chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Be sure to help your loved one take the right dose at the correct times if they need assistance with medications.

Reduce stress
Chronic stress can increase inflammation. Suggest your loved one try stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga to help manage inflammation and improve overall well-being.

Quit smoking and moderate alcohol intake
Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption can significantly reduce inflammation and lower the risk of related health issues.

Visit the doctor
Ensure your loved one sees their doctor for regular medical check-ups to monitor their overall health and detect any underlying conditions or signs of inflammation early.

You can also help your loved one manage their chronic inflammation symptoms with the help of an in-home care specialist. When you need the added support of a healthcare professional who provides safe, in-home care, give CareHop a call.

Quality in-home elder care services in Etobicoke, Mississauga, and Brampton

CareHop specializes in providing safe, quality eldercare services when you need a helping hand. Our goal is to bring peace of mind to families while protecting their loved one’s health and well-being.

We specialize in professional in-home nursing care, PSW services, and Alzheimer’s
disease and dementia care that focus on your loved one’s specific needs. Whether
your loved one is diagnosed with chronic inflammation or another condition, we’ll
tailor a treatment plan that will keep them happy, engaged, and looking forward
to having a great day, every day.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation discussion to discover how we can help you.

About the Author

Michael Lu is the founder of CareHop. He started the business inspired by his Grandmother to look at ageing as a happy experience to bring sunshine into the homes of others.

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