Let’s start off with a simple truth: you are not getting any younger, which is a nice way of saying that you are aging. Not only that, but you are on a collision course where your body will eventually fail — no matter what you do, your declining body will eventually hit the point where it cannot sustain life. You are on a downhill journey and an uphill battle.
After you reach your prime, you have to work harder to maintain your health as the years go by. Some diseases are just chalked up to old age: arthritis, heart disease, and dementia are shocking when they happen in younger years. When you are older and still in good health, your friends are surprised — old age and good health don’t seem to go together. Why? It’s because what we consider old age is not the chronological age but the progression of age-related diseases that we consider “age.” “He just acts old” or “you’re only as old as you feel” — we recognize that the phenomenon of age isn’t simply a matter of years.
We can’t spare you from aging, but we can slow down the effects. The degree of slowdown can be dramatic, and you may even feel like you are younger when you make the right changes. Changing the oil in your car doesn’t stop engine wear, but it sure slows it down. Much the same is true with your body. You can push out the point at which your body can no longer maintain life by many years of high quality with the right changes.
What you may not know is that most diseases are “age-related.’ That’s because diseases are preceded by inflammation: diseases such as diabetes, cancer, any cardiovascular condition, and any autoimmune issues are inflammation diseases, and are more prevalent in old age. Our bodies are more prone to chronic inflammation as they age. Reducing inflammation through improved lifestyle counters this natural tendency. Yes, it gets harder as the years pass, but it’s well worth the effort at any age.
A deep look at inflammation and aging
Inflammation is a normal part of the immune system’s function. Inflammation is meant to heal, not tear down the body. Special cells — macrophages, neutrophils, and mast cells — are initially on stand-by, ready to swoop in and deal with a foreign invader or physical injury. Pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) and damage associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) stimulate immune cell receptors such as toll-like receptors (TLRs) and NOD-like receptors (NLRs) when invaders or damage occurs— this is the threat-recognition process that tells the immune system to swing into action. Then “transcription factors”, which are epigenetic responses causing special genetic codes to be activated, cause inflammatory immune system warriors such as cytokines to be produced rapidly. Transcription factors such as NF-?B and activator protein (AP) are suddenly released when the immune system is called into action. Once the threat is eliminated, the epigenetic transcription reverts and the cytokines and other inflammatory molecules are actively shut down. Inflammation is supposed to be a temporary reaction to destroy a threat, since inflammation also damages healthy cells especially if sustained for long periods. The immune system is an army of warriors that responds to a command structure which tells it when to destroy a threat and when to stand down. Pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) are lipids such as resolvins, protectins, lipoxins, and maresins, produced from omega-3 fatty acids, that stop activity of immune system neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils, collectively referred to as polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMNs). This is an intentional and active shut down of the immune system activity that was causing inflammation. The body does work both to turn on and turn off immune activity.
Unfortunately, aging reduces the body’s ability to produce these SPMs. This is shown in a study published in The Journal of Immunology, where researchers from the Harvard Institutes of Medicine, Boston, MA conducted animal studies on the effect of aging on the acute (first) stage of inflammation. They discovered delayed resolution of the inflammation due to reduced levels of SPMs as compared with young subjects. They also saw slowed macrophage clean-up of debris left from the immune system attack. Essentially, the aged immune system can still mount a strong attack, but is slower to back down. This is referred to as immune dysregulation — the immune system command structure weakens with age.
If the inflammation is chronic, the shut down process isn’t even invoked — the inflammation is still deemed to be needed. Instead, more macrophages and T cells are produced to replace the initial neutrophils called in from the initial phase of inflammation. With chronic stress, mental or physical, these new recruits are unable to resolve the problem, and inflammation settles in for the long haul. Unfortunately, inflammation means active cytokine warriors continually create collateral damage in their efforts to resolve an unresolvable problem. At the very least, this weakens the immune system in its ability to deal with real threats when then come along, causing increased risk of succumbing to a bacterial or viral attack, such as the common cold or flu, and what is becoming the common COVID. But the risk is far greater than just that.
We’ve discussed the process which is now commonly called “inflammaging”, where aging and inflammation appear to go hand in hand. Aged individuals are more prone to inflammation, and increased inflammation advances the ravages of aging. Published in Aging and Disease, researchers at the Molecular Inflammation Research Center for Aging Intervention, Pusan National University, Korea reviewed evidence of oxidative stress damage to the transcriptional factor NF-?B, which appears to be highly sensitive to redox imbalances. Redox refers to the transfer of electrons resulting in oxidative stress — reactive oxygen species (ROS) and other reactive molecules that cause damage throughout the body. The researchers showed that the antioxidant system that maintains redox balance declines with age, leading to cellular damage that calls out the immune system, provoking inflammation.
This study also noted “massive accumulation of macrophages in adipose tissue during aging.” Another study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, finds that, in obesity, up to 40% of all adipose tissue consists of macrophages. Carrying excess fat is inflammatory at any age, but in older age the inflammation problem gets worse.
We see that the aging body has these two strikes against it: increasing immune dysregulation and higher susceptibility to oxidative stress. Is there anything we can do to avoid inflammaging?
Lifestyle — a fountain of youth
Aging means an uphill battle. But it’s a battle that you can turn in your favor. If you want to feel younger and stave off disease, you need to bring down inflammation. Yes, that is harder to do in old age, which is all the more reason to work harder at it! You can potentially add many years to your lifespan, and those years can be good years, free of many of the symptoms of age. As we age, we fear mental and physical breakdown. But studies of almost every disease that we associate with age show that each starts with inflammation. That’s where we can turn the battle around, because we can influence inflammation.
Look at what inflammation births. Each disease further opens the door to another disease. Diabetes throws sugar management out of control, increasing oxidative stress, leading to more inflammation, leading to more disease. Poor brain function leads to reduced regulation of body metabolism, causing damage and resulting in inflammation. Excess weight, simply by existing, produces chronic inflammation. Cancer is consistently preceded by inflammation. We have to get ahead of the inflammatory snowball effect: inflammation brings forth disease which triggers more inflammation.
One such study of an “age-related” disease was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, where researchers at the Rotman Research Institute, Baycreast Health Sciences, Toronto, Canada studied 22,117 participants, aged 18 to 89, to determine lifestyle impacts on dementia development. They isolated various risk factors for dementia, such as smoking, hypertension, diabetes, depression, and substance abuse and determined that as much as three years of cognitive decline occurred with each risk factor that was added, and the effect was cumulative. All the risk factors were inflammatory. The effects of the risk factors increased with age — no surprise, since the body’s vulnerability to inflammation increases with age.
Many more studies show the same thing. Good lifestyle, proper body weight, and lowered stress reduces inflammation. This prevents the downward health spiral before it starts, and if it has started, puts a brake on the process. An upward health spiral can occur if the source of chronic inflammation is removed, taking away the effects of aging even though the aging process continues. This is a real fountain of youth — maybe 10 to 20 years worth!
So, do you want to age gracefully, or would you rather not address your lifestyle and accept a “hard landing” in your aging process? You can’t stop aging, but you can make the experience a lot better if you are willing to deal with your inflammation. This means you have great control over disease and aging, because inflammation is an environmental response, and you control the environment you give your body.
Dr. Nemec’s Review
Inflammation is the root of disease. As stated this includes cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, depression, neurological disease, gastrointestinal disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar — just to name a few. This inflammation is a reaction of the immune system trying to get rid of pathogens, chemicals, toxins, abnormal cells, and any foreign invaders. As stated when we age the system can still mount an immune response, it just can’t shut it off. The biggest reason it cannot shut off the immune response is because the irritants are continually coming into the body which keeps setting off the immune response. What causes these aggravators to have access? You do — with what you think about, with what you eat, with what you drink, with how much exercise you get, what time you go to bed at night, and what type of chemicals, toxins and environmental irritants you’re exposed to.
Very powerful fact that I would like to restate: from each risk factor three years of cognitive decline are added and the results are cumulative. For example, if you don’t exercise, you do eat a standard American diet which is inflammatory, and haven’t improved your diet significantly since you turned 40, you’re somewhat depressed because of what’s going on in the world and your life, you drink some alcohol regularly, you have slightly high blood pressure, slightly high blood sugar and slightly high cholesterol. Take this all into account, do the math and that can be up to 21 years of accelerated cognitive decline. So this means if you were meant to have a sharp mind and healthy body when you are 80 then this standard American person doing a standard American diet and lifestyle is going to have significant cognitive decline begin at age 59, and all because of things they have the power to change. What’s the take-home message? You do have the power to change your environment by your choices. Choose correctly, and not only will you live life to the full in mind and body but you will have more days in your life and more quality of life in each one of those days.
Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:
- Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
- Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
- Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Total Health Institute but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
- Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Total Health Institute along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.