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Chronic inflammation has been linked to multiple health issues that plague our society, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers plus a range of autoimmune diseases. Here we’ll highlight what chronic inflammation is and some simple lifestyle changes to help reduce the toll it takes on your body.

Acute inflammation is the body’s response to tissue injury. It is the first line of defense against injury and is characterized by changes in microcirculation, leakage of fluid and migration of white blood cells from blood vessels to the area of injury. Typically of short duration, acute inflammation is primarily aimed at removing the injurious agent. Most of the time it is self-limiting. Clinically, acute inflammation is characterized by five cardinal signs: rubor (redness), calor (heat), tumor (swelling), dolor (pain), and functio laesa (loss of function). The acute inflammatory process is essential for tissue healing and repair.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, serves no function and has been linked to many of the chronic illnesses that are epidemic today, such as: diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, some cancers, allergies, asthma and obesity. (Khansari, N et al. 2009)

SPEED is an acronym for five major lifestyle factors that can be manipulated to mitigate and/or reverse some of the effects of chronic inflammation:

  1. Sleep
  2. Psychological stress
  3. Environment
  4. Exercise
  5. Diet

Sleep

Can a person be fit, yet also be fat? For most of us, a fair assumption would be to believe (at least initially) that the answer is ‘no’, but when you examine the research on this relationship, and the subsequent effects on mortality rates, there is no universal agreement. While plenty of research supports the ‘no’ assumption, a growing number of studies now also support the notion that a person could be fat, yet also be healthy (1, 2). So what are we to believe and use as our compass when it comes to education and programming for activity and weight loss?

First, we should examine definitions of ‘fit’ and ‘fat’ as they alone contribute to this confusion, Then, we should also examine the nature of some of the studies conducted that may have received widespread media coverage without proper merit.

Let’s start first with definitions of overweight and obesity. A measure of body fat percentage would appear to provide a logical assessment of an individual’s level of fat, but the unfortunate reality is that the validity and reliability of in vivo, cost-efficient, field testing for measuring percent body fat remains highly questionable. Consequently, much of science relies upon the more objective measurement of body mass index (BMI) or the Quetelet Index that has replaced the older height-to-weight tables used prior to the mid-1980s. Research supporting mortality to BMI scores (not % fat) is quite strong and defined within the categories established for normal, overweight, obese and morbidly obese (18.5 – 24.9; 25.0 – 29.9; 30.0 – 39.9; 40.0+ respectively) (3, 4). We generally believe that the more body fat a person has, the greater their risk for disease, and because higher BMI scores generally reflect excess fat in most individuals, these scores have been correlated to increased risk of disease (Table 1-1) (3).

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