Canyon Ranch Blog

Inflammation: The Silent Risk Factor

Inflammation is something you’re undoubtedly familiar with—the skin redness that comes from a bee sting or the swelling that results from twisting your ankle. In these and other acute cases, you should feel thankful it is around—it’s your immune system’s natural fix-it response, after all. Inflammation comes, it protects, it heals and then—poof—it disappears. At least that’s when things happen as they should.

You see, inflammation has a darker side, too. When chronic and low-grade, it can be much more silent and insidious than this. “Your immune system can become chronically ‘locked and loaded,’ trying to fight problems that don’t exist,” says Mark Liponis, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Canyon Ranch. “It’s as if our white blood cells are being sent to attack, but there is no specific infection. This kind of inflammation can cause damage to your heart, brain, blood vessels, kidneys…everything.” Even very low levels of inflammation have been linked with significantly increased risk for heart attack and stroke, and it doesn’t really matter what the source of the inflammation is.

The reason why this chronic kind of inflammation strikes may not be as obvious to you as a pesky bug or a hasty misstep. “Our immune system responds in a general way to any number of stressors.  The result is inflammation. That could stem from an infection, stress, allergies, injuries, lack of sleep or breathing problems.” Dr. Liponis says. “Sometimes there’s no other reason for inflammation than the fact that you’re carrying extra pounds, particularly around the middle.” No matter the trigger (or triggers), your immune system gets stuck in a dangerous ‘battle mode.’

A clear example of this is when there’s a buildup of bad cholesterol in your arteries: Your immune system perceives it as something that doesn’t belong and responds, attacking the plaque in your arteries, which can trigger a heart attack.

“Chronic, systemic inflammation’s one of the first dominos to fall on the path to so many serious conditions: Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and more,” says Dr. Liponis. “And the worst part about it is that most people who have it don’t know it.”

Determining and Curbing Your Level of Inflammation

Skin issues, digestive symptoms, sore joints, fatigue, weight gain, pain and other symptoms may help you suspect chronic inflammation. But again, it can—and most often does—exist without any obvious calling cards. That’s where blood tests can help: White blood cells increase in the presence inflammation, as does C-reactive protein (CRP). Levels of these markers can accurately measure the exact amount of inflammation in your body. “And once you know inflammation is present, you and your doctor can be on the lookout for its cause,” says Dr. Liponis. (Some doctors may not order a CRP test as part of routine lab work, so be sure to specifically request it and a review of the results.)

There are many ways to keep your immune system quiet and, thus, inflammation in check, and they are worth investing in whether you know that you have high levels or not:

“You don’t want your immune system constantly fighting. You want it to be peaceful,” reminds Dr. Liponis. “Think of your white blood cells as doing the backstroke gently down your bloodstream, sipping a piña colada.” The more they ‘rest’ and save their activity for fighting true threats, the better able you are to stave off chronic inflammation.

More: More: Understanding Belly Fat

Eating a Colorful Diet for Cancer Prevention

The punchier the pigment, the more nutrition value it packs
Read More

Chronic Stress and Your Body

Certain signs and symptoms could be hinting that life’s pressures may be getting the ...
Read More

Maintain Your Exercise Motivation

You can beat the urge to skip the gym by trying these strategies
Read More

5 Key Practices to Remember When You Exercise

These details can be easy to overlook—but here’s why they’re important
Read More

At-Home Fitness Equipment: Our Top Picks

You don’t need a lot of equipment to get a great workout
Read More

Cardio Machines: Get Your Best Workout

Not-so-common knowledge about your favorite calorie-burning machines
Read More

5 Simple Seated Stretches

Get that ahhh feeling as you release tension and soothe your muscles and joints
Read More

6 “This-or-That” Fitness Questions Answered

Take the guesswork out of your workout and make it time well spent
Read More

5 Yoga Poses for a Stronger Spine

This practice can strengthen your spine and help you stand tall and pain-free
Read More

Use Your Own Bodyweight to Strength Train

10 exercises you can do anytime, anywhere—no equipment required
Read More

Your Workout Back-Up Plan

What to do when circumstances get in the way of your original intentions
Read More

Fitness Trackers: Motivation Through Technology

Logging your exercise sessions with technology can help you reach your goals
Read More

Book Online or Contact Us

Book Now Contact Us

Questions & Reservations

Tucson, Arizona +1 800 742 9000
Lenox, Massachusetts +1 800 742 9000
Kaplankaya, Turkey
SpaClub®, Las Vegas +1 877 220 2688
SpaClub®, At Sea Queen Mary 2: +1 866 860 4662
Oceania Cruises: +1 877 329 1924
Regency Seven Seas: +1 877 329 1924
Celebrity Cruises: +1 844 860 4662