Most chronic diseases that set in later in life are caused by the cumulative effects of unhealthy living over the years. The good news is that by watching what we eat, how we sleep and what we do, we can avoid diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer and heart disease.
The first health marker than can be used to predict the risk of these chronic disease is chronic inflammation.
Health Marker 1: Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is a complex biological response mounted by the body to protect itself from harmful injuries and begin the process of healing. Such harmful injuries to the body may be caused by any of infections, toxins, autoimmune damage, stress, radiation, burns and physical trauma.
Inflammation can be acute or chronic. Acute inflammation occurs immediately and lasts only a few days.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, has a delayed onset, can proceed silently while causing more harm and last for years.
The inflammatory process is mediated by cells of the immune system. Although this response is needed for the body to stay healthy, sometimes the immune response is triggered even when no harm is done. In other cases, the immune response is exaggerated and exceeds what is normal.
A dysfunctional or inappropriate inflammatory response is responsible for autoimmune diseases, arthritis, asthma, allergies, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other related diseases. The result of chronic inflammation, therefore, depends on the organs affected.
Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation can stay undetected for years while causing harm internally. Most cases of chronic inflammation are detected only after they cause loss of function and, therefore, observable symptoms.
Diet is a big contributor to chronic inflammation. While some foods can trigger inflammation, others have anti-inflammatory effects.
For example, foods with high glycemic indices, especially sugars and trans fats, can cause deep-seated inflammation that goes on silently for years. The inflammation caused by these foods affect major organs such as the liver, heart and brain.
On the other hand, foods rich in healthy fats such as the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish and marine life-like krill as well as gamma linoleic acid (and other saturated medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil, for example) do reduce inflammation.
Changing your diet to include those healthy foods that prevent inflammation and exclude pro-inflammatory foods is the first step in avoiding serious chronic diseases later in life. For example, anti-inflammatory foods and supplements can help reduce stiff joints in arthritic patients.
Although diet is a big component of chronic inflammation, it is not the whole story.
Insulin levels is another health marker that can be used to predict the risks of chronic diseases. Insulin levels are also tied to the foods we eat and, therefore, chronic inflammation.
Health Marker 2: Insulin Levels
Insulin has a profound effect on health because of its central role in the transformation of glucose to energy. In fact, insulin levels can be taken to predict the rate of aging.
Some experts believe that insulin resistance is the root of all chronic diseases that occurs in the elderly.
[box type=”note”]Insulin resistance is a state in which the amount of insulin released in the body cannot properly lower blood sugar levels even though insulin levels are within the ideal range. Therefore, insulin resistance leads to high levels of insulin and glucose in the blood. This easily results in metabolic syndrome.[/box]
Because of insulin resistance, the pancreas secretes even more insulin to help drive glucose into cells. However, this corrective mechanism overtasks the pancreas and will lead to an early exhaustion of the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas.
One of the key results of insulin resistance is the increased release of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the blood. Such cytokines include prostaglandins and TNF (tissue necrosis factors).
These cytokines cause inflammation in different parts of the body. If insulin resistance persists, the body keeps releasing these inflammatory factors and so perpetuates a long cycle of chronic inflammation.
Therefore, high insulin level is a good sign of insulin resistance and the cause of chronic inflammation in the body. This means that by measuring insulin levels it is possible to predict how healthy one is and the risks of certain chronic diseases later in life.
There are different ways of normalizing high insulin levels. However, the two most important ways to achieve this are exercise and avoiding sugary snacks and drinks especially the high fructose corn syrups used in making beverage sodas.
Health Marker 3: Chronic Stress
Stress can be positive or negative. It refers to any form of overexertion of the bodyâ€™s resources.
There are different kinds of stressors but the ones that cause negative stress, overwhelm the emotion, cause fatigue and are prolonged are the ones that harm the body the most.
Chronic stress can cause significant changes in the body. While we mostly see the outward changes, it is the changes that happen in the body that are the most important.
[box type=”note”]For example, chronic stress can cause hair loss, depression, weight gain, aches and other outward symptoms. Each of these is only the result of marked changes in the body and these changes affect cellular metabolism, hormonal balance and the immune system.[/box]
Chronic stress can affect every aspect of our body and the changes it causes may seem unrelated
The changes triggered by chronic stress range from skin diseases to heart diseases; from changes in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain to changes in the release of hormones in the body. Stress can also affect the absorption and distribution of essential micronutrients and it may interfere with the ability of the body to heal itself.
The best ways to overcome chronic stress are exercise and adequate sleep.