Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Jim Fain

Lonely people and people who have limited social lives tend to have high levels of chronic inflammation. In these people there is a much higher incidence of heart attack, stroke, dementia and Alzheimer's as they age.

  We all know many elders outlive their friends and family leaving them lonely. And there are many people who, as they age, become very selective about friends and the social events they want to enjoy. The trouble is, our bodies detox cortisol (often called the death hormone) levels through laughter and play. Cortisol levels can skyrocket to unhealthy levels causing high levels of chronic inflammation.

  Inflammation should be part of the healing phase and is best short-term. When it lasts for a long time our bodies just get used to it as though it is normal. Inside of us our system produces enzymes to counter the bad stuff and these are called COX-1 and COX-2.

  Short term this is good but long term the COX-2 starts to cause its own set of unhealthy problems. This wasn't well understood until the late 1990s. Prescribed drugs, such as Celebrex which were crafted to counter COX-2, often cause very serious side effects and new ailments.

Where's the fire?

  The brain is on fire! Alzheimer's is not well understood but a strange similarity between it and heart disease and strokes is plaque. The same sticky plaque is found in both ailments and is thought to be associated with chronic inflammation. Two lab tests requiring a little bit of blood are helpful in measuring inflammation, namely homocystein and C-Reactive protein. Even if these are in the mid-normal range, I'd like to see them reduced to near non-existence.

  What to do? Laugh more and have more fun through social interaction. Unless you can laugh at city politics with a deep belly laugh, gauge your social involvement outside of areas that cause friction. Curb your intake of red meat and eggs and eat more fish. Find a way to stay physically and mentally active. Keep a grip on your sugar levels, which dramatically increase body-wide inflammation and add supplements.

  Taking a multivitamin with minerals and trace elements goes a long way. Adding omega-3 from fish oil looking to reach 500 mg of DHA (look at the supplement facts on the back of the bottle) on a daily basis is excellent. And a whole range of herbals are a cornucopia of inexpensive protection. Tumeric, ginger, white willow, boswella, devil's claw, green tea, rosemary, resveratrol and bromelain are all known to powerfully reduce COX-2 and chronic inflammation.

  Of course you get additional benefit from the multivitamin, omega-3s and the COX-2 support. Mood, skin, wrinkles and digestion improve and there is considerable pain reduction as well as cancer protection associated with the herbals. Again, a glass or two of Shiraz or Cab shared with friends who like each other makes life last longer and is just more fun.

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