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What Causes Inflammaging?

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Aging is a process that takes place naturally due to a variety of factors. As part of this, chronic inflammation resulting from several biological and environmental factors can put aging individuals at greater risk of diseases that can then lead to mortality.

There are numerous causes of inflammaging that can result in this kind of fragility and vulnerability among the elderly that you can go through below in addition to other relevant information about it.

Let’s begin!

What Is Inflammaging?

Inflammaging is essentially the combination of inflammation and aging. When individuals reach a certain old age, a chronic form of inflammation can start to develop in the body, which can then increase the risk of several other diseases and conditions.

When the immune system becomes weaker with age, it can no longer efficiently regulate systemic inflammation in the body, which usually takes place when cytokines end up getting released from cells.

This kind of interaction in the innate immune system reduces the level of adaptability in the body and leads to haphazard activities. This is mainly what results in inflammaging. The precise factors and causes that enable this kind of chronic inflammation, however, are varied and important for you to be aware of.


Causes Of Inflammaging

Let’s take a detailed look into the causes of inflammaging.

Cell Senescence

Cell senescence or cellular senescence refers to that stage of cellular life when they can no longer divide and grow. This arises due to reasons such as the cytokine release from cells and genotoxicity, among other causes.

While senescence can actually end up inhibiting the spread of cancer cells, too many of them can end up leading to inflammaging. This is mainly because with age, the immune system can no longer clear out these senescent cells, leading to a gradual increase in their number.

However, based on research evidence, it might be possible to remove or get rid of these kinds of cells and prevent or delay the occurrence of age-related diseases.

Inflammasome Function

The innate immune system in our bodies contains cytosolic structures called inflammasomes that can end up getting activated as a result of aging, causing them to secrete inflammatory proteins in the cells.

When these inflammasomes end up getting activated to an uncontrollable level, it can result in the damage of cells. Quite often, this kind of inflammasome activation is a result of several factors infections, certain kinds of nutrients, different kinds of molecular structures and more.

Reactive Oxygen Species

There are several reactive chemicals in the cells that often form due to the action of oxygen. These are called reactive oxygen species and often tend to collect in large numbers in the cells as a result of aging because the body can no longer regulate their presence in the body.

These are free radicals that are not actually all bad, but if they are present in large numbers, they can end up causing damage to the adaptability of the immune system while also harming the DNA, lipids and proteins, often leading to cellular damage and death.

This makes the body more susceptible to various diseases.

Excess Microbial Action

The oral tract and the gut have an inner lining called the mucosa that acts as a protective barrier against bacteria. The microorganisms usually present here are generally healthy bacteria that can help with a range of processes such as protection, digestion, anti-inflammation, metabolization and more.

However, with age, the microbiota is no longer able to diversify and can end up diminishing, making the body vulnerable to harmful bacteria and are no longer to protect against excessive inflammation, resulting in increased inflammatory action in the body.

Additionally, diseases like periodontitis, which is quite common in aged individuals, can end up increasing the amount of chronic inflammation in the body.

Cell Debris

As a result of increasing cellular damage and the action of various kinds of macromolecules in the body, cell debris often gets left behind. Because the immune system can no longer clear this debris out with as much ease as it once could, the debris left behind can end up gathering more and more in the body.

This kind of cell debris can interfere with processes of regeneration and repair in the cells and tissues. In particular, damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) can often lead to inflammation as a result of aging processes.

Coagulation

The coagulation system in the body comprises proteins and blood cells that are responsible for coagulating or clotting the blood after a wound or injury. This is an important process that can facilitate healing.

However, as one ages, the coagulation system becomes overactivated and overstimulated in the body without sufficient regulation. Due to this, the plasma levels and other markers rise in the body, leading to inflammation and increasing the risk of several cardiovascular diseases in the elderly.

The greater risk of thrombosis in the veins and arteries can also result in this kind of inflammaging.

Immunosenescence

The immune system begins to decline with age. This means that the ability of the immune system to appropriately react and adapt to various changing situations and external substances declines. As a result, the innate immune system might end up trying to overcompensate for this, leading to several changes in the body.

For instance, the cells and antigens that were once useful in protecting the body can no longer fight against harmful cells. They also go on to decline in number, leading to the death of the adaptive immune system. As a result, the body becomes more susceptible to diseases, infections and all kinds of malignancies.

Local Inflammatory Reactions

The complement system is an integral part of the immune system that empowers the antibodies and cells to clear the damaged cells from the body, often resulting in healthy inflammation. However, without sufficient control and regulation, the level of inflammation can rise considerably.

These kinds of local reactions can end up causing further damage to diseases and conditions like age-related macular degeneration, which can create severe problems in the eyesight of the elderly.

This is often why many older individuals experience a decline in their vision, sometimes even becoming blind. Inflammaging, therefore, has a role to play in this kind of age-related decline too.

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress can actually be a major cause of inflammation in the body. If there are numerous stressors in the environment of aging individuals or if they have been more prone to stress from a young age, they can end up experiencing several reactions in the body that can result in chronic inflammation.

In particular, chronic stressors can end up increasing the production of IL-6, a pro-inflammatory cytokine. This then makes the body unable to deal with the stress and can result in an increased risk of various conditions and diseases.

Poor Lifestyle

Poor lifestyle can result in inflammaging as well, especially if the individual has been following this kind of lifestyle for a long time.

For instance, sleeping disorders, fatigue, obesity, poor eating patterns, insufficient physical exercise, overstimulation, overworking and other such lifestyle factors can end up resulting in the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

reading a document with a magnifying glass

As a result of this, the accumulation of inflammatory substances in the body can hamper the body’s ability to fight against harmful cells. This makes the body more vulnerable to diseases of various kinds, thus causing inflammaging in the body.


Is Inflammaging Always Bad?

Technically speaking, chronic inflammation itself does not always have to be dangerous. In fact, as cells go on dying and new cells form, there are several ways in which the body adapts so as to ensure proper functioning, repair and regeneration.

Inflammation is one such bodily response that can actually serve to protect the body, according to evolutionary perspectives. This can help keep several age-related diseases at bay in several individuals, a notion particularly observed in centenarians.

This is mainly because there might be other conditions at play that can help protect the body. These can then point towards a healthy form of inflammation even with age. Largely, however, inflammaging can make the body more prone to developing age-related diseases and conditions.


Impacts Of Inflammaging

There are several results of the various causes highlighted above. Inflammaging can make the body vulnerable to diseases, but which diseases does this include? Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.

Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular diseases can become quite common due to inflammaging. Stressors, free radicals, excess coagulation and other such factors can lead to such diseases while also increasing the risk of sudden strokes and heart failures.

What Causes Inflammaging? Cardiovascular diseases.

Diabetes, high blood pressure, arrhythmia, congestive heart failures, artery diseases, congenital heart diseases and poor circulation are some potential conditions that you might end up experiencing. Some are also those you might have had for a long time and can become worse as a result of inflammaging.

The body’s growing inability to properly heal and repair cells and tissues can also increase the risk of clots.

Cancer

Chronic inflammation and cancer have several associations with each other. If there are sites in your body that exhibit excess levels of inflammation, this might result in the growth of cancers and tumors that can then spread throughout various parts of the body.

Because of aging processes and the increase in chronic inflammation, the production of certain proteins and the retention of damaged cells in the body make it easier for cancers to grow and develop.

Additionally, since the immunity can no longer adapt well, it cannot sufficiently protect the body from external cancerous cells and reactions.

Skin Inflammaging

Inflammaging can also affect skin health. As is common with the aging process, the skin begins to decline in health and results in wrinkling, folds and general weakening.

Inflammation is often responsible for this given that it breaks down the structure and results in the loss of collagen and other molecules in the skin that otherwise keeps the skin healthy.

Dead and damaged cells begin to accumulate in the layers that form the skin, resulting in looseness. Apart from the natural inflammaging that takes place in the body, other environmental stressors and pollutants might also prematurely cause this kind of impact.

Depression

We have noted that inflammaging often stems from the overproduction of a pro-inflammatory cytokine called IL-6. This substance is actually also responsible for increasing the levels of depression, resulting in depressive disorders.

This is mainly because this substance can result in neuroinflammation as well and may result in actions and reactions in the relevant axes in the brain and associated neurotransmitters.

This is also often why depression is a common disorder present among the elderly, although there are, of course, various other reasons that can increase the intensity of this disorder.

This can also help explain depressive disorders among other age groups.

Cognitive Disorders

Inflammaging can also help explain the increased incidence of cognitive disorders in the elderly. For instance, the occurrence of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other general declines in memory, attention, language or speech, learning and more are all associated with chronic inflammation.

This is once again related to the pro-inflammatory cytokines produced as a result of aging processes, although external factors can also increase the risk of such cognitive disorders in the elderly.

Neuroinflammation also occurs due to inflammaging that can help explain this kind of cognitive decline. Simultaneously, associated issues such as sleeping problems and obesity may also occur or increase the risk.


Are There Any Solutions?

So far, there are no applicable solutions. However, plenty of research is taking place that can hold promise for treatment options or preventive measures that can target damaged cells and pro-inflammatory substances in particular.

What Causes Inflammaging? Old hands holding pills.

Apart from this, maintaining a healthy lifestyle from a young age can help prevent premature inflammaging.


What Causes Inflammaging? Final Thoughts

Inflammaging occurs in the body due to several causes such as cell senescence, immunosenescence, chronic stress, coagulation, cell debris, excess free radicals and others. This can then put the body at increased risk of developing several chronic and fatal conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and cognitive disorders.

Rosemary Richards
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