Doctors and healthcare providers like to utter big words. We go to school for numerous years just to learn these huge phrases, and we much prefer performing so.

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“Inflammation” is a good one. When we said “inflammation,” we usually meant something that happens when you get a cut or scrape. Swelling, red skin was “inflamed.” If you have arthritis, your joints may become inflamed as well.

Now, however, “inflammation” is used in every which way. It’s been linked to a slew of illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer, in recent research.

Inflammation is both easy and complicated—both beneficial and harmful. However, there is something you can do about it. In fact, the solution is quite basic. You’ll understand why once you understand what inflammation truly is.

What Is Inflammation?

Swelling, heat, redness, and pain all surround a skinned knee almost immediately. Inflammation is when tissue response to injury. In this situation, it’s beneficial. Swelling creates a firm barrier that keeps germs out. The crimson color and warmth are from an increased blood flow, which helps the body fight infection by generating white blood cells. Inflammation has a basic function of limiting damage, destroying invaders, and healing injured tissue. It is important to remember that inflammation is important in several ways

However, when inflammation occurs inside your body, you may suffer. The difficulties begin when it occurs in a hazardous location such as the coronary arteries.

We can’t examine your body to determine whether your arteries are blocked. However, we may assess indications of inflammation. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or C-reactive protein are the most common laboratory tests used to detect inflammation.

ESR Test

The ESR, or sed rate, was created in 1897 and began to be utilized widely during the 1920s. Doctors have mainly used it to check for arthritis or infection in recent years. It indicates any form of inflammation, however.

To perform the test, we placed some blood in a narrow tube and waited an hour to see how quickly it settled. If you have inflammation, certain proteins that accumulate on red blood cell surfaces cause them to stick together in rows. They settle faster as a result of this.

CRP Test

The CRP has been around since the 1930s, but lately it has received a lot of attention.

The search for a biomarker to predict heart disease and other illnesses has been going on since the ‘90s, when Paul Ridker, M.D., and Brigham and Women’s Hospital discovered that measuring C-reactive protein levels might “predict high risk of cardiovascular disease even when cholesterol is low,” according to Kevin C. Myron from Brigham and Women’s Hosptial. Their hs-CRP—a “higher specific” test—is receiving the most attention because it is more precise and, well, specific. It’s also more costly and takes longer to get results.

Another bit of CRP controversy: Dr. Ridker and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have collaborated on research that has helped promote the hs-CRP test. They get a cut of the profits from that test.

Is inflammation dangerous at any time?

Inflammation in your body comes from cell damage, just like inflammation on your skin does as a result of an injury. This can be caused by either physical violence or any other type of harm. Arterial inflammation is caused by high blood pressure, diabetes management issues such as poor glucose control or smoking, and elevated cholesterol levels.

Researchers are examining the harmful impact of inflammation on your body. One major question they’re attempting to answer is heart disease.

According to some studies, inflammation is linked to a heart attack. The double whammy: People with inflammation are less likely to survive a heart attack and more likely to have arteries close up again after having been opened with stents or balloons. Perhaps inflamed arteries are more prone to develop plaque and have these plaques detach and travel to the heart as a result of inflammation’s relationships with stroke. It’s probably the case that inflammation causes strokes in the same way.

Another problem is cancer. We still have much to learn about some types of tumors, but, for example, smoking causes long-term cellular damage. We’re not sure whether inflammation plays a role yet.

How to Treat Inflammation

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not be concerned about winning a hundred battles,” wrote Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu in The Art of War. He would have made an excellent doctor.

We can avoid what causes inflammation by preventing what triggers it—attacking the source of the problem.

Keeping your blood pressure healthy; monitoring your cholesterol levels; giving up smoking; and, for diabetics, controlling your glucose levels are all crucial. Researchers are also studying infections that create chronic inflammation in the heart, such as the herpes virus and Chlamydia pneumoniae bacteria (not to be confused with STD chlamydia).

Aspirin is one of the most powerful weapons in the war against inflammation and heart disease. Aspirin is a miracle drug that can perform a variety of tasks. While we don’t know exactly how it works, it reduces fevers, inflammation, pain, and blood clots. These are some of the fundamental drivers and consequences of the inflammatory response. Clearly, aspirin has an impact, but at what level remains to be seen.

Inflammation is a sign that your skin is inflamed. For one thing, it hurts. It’s harder to detect inflammation within the body. The arteries and many internal organs lack the pain receptors that the skin has. You won’t feel a thing if you have any inflamed arteries.

Who Should Be Tested for Inflammation?

The C-reactive protein test is one inflammation test. Some doctors advocate adding it as part of everyone’s cholesterol screening, claiming that it is another component. One problem with such a plan: any inflammation detected by the CRP test is called “endogenous.” A skinned knee, the flu, arthritis, and infections are all causes of raised CRP. Getting to the source may take time and use several tests.

A CRP test may be appropriate for people with a normal or slightly elevated cholesterol profile since it might suggest another heart disease risk factor. However, experts believe that the majority of individuals should not request or anticipate a CRP. This is yet to be seen, but at this time the evidence is contradictory.

How to Prevent Inflammation

By following the same habits you already know are beneficial, you can help prevent inflammation. Controlling blood pressure and diabetes, getting regular exercise, eating a low-fat diet with fruits and veggies, and quitting smoking are all methods to reduce the root causes of inflammation and heart disease. So you won’t have to worry about that CRP test anymore.

Photo by Kindel Media/Pexels

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