Understanding chronic inflammation (and four ways you can manage it)

4 August 2023

Inflammation is the result of your immune system’s response to injury or damage—a normal and healthy start to the body’s healing process. Acute inflammation refers to the body’s immediate response to an injury (such as a cut), resulting in temporary redness and swelling. Chronic inflammation, however, occurs when the body continues to send out inflammatory cells when there is no immediate damage or danger.

Since chronic inflammation can play a role in several different disease states—from cancer, heart disease and diabetes to Alzheimer’s, asthma and lung disease—it’s important to understand the role inflammation plays in your health and what you can do to manage it.

Understanding the role of chronic inflammation in your health

Chronic inflammation is involved in many different diseases. With certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory cells attack healthy tissue, causing damage to joints. Nearly 60 million Americans live with arthritis alone, which represents approximately 24% of the adult population.

Over time, chronic inflammation may also cause DNA damage, which can increase the risk of developing cancer.

Considering these risks, and the role that chronic inflammation plays in so many different health conditions, it is estimated that 3 in 5 people worldwide die due to complications from chronic inflammatory diseases.

So, how can you manage chronic inflammation and prevent the health risks it may bring?

Chronic inflammation and lifestyle habits

If you live with chronic inflammation, it’s important to discuss symptom management and disease prevention with your doctor and/or health coach.

Together, you can reflect upon some of the lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your inflammation, such as:

  • Exposure to toxins
  • Obesity
  • Chronic stress
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking/tobacco use
  • Excessive drinking


Fight inflammation with a healthful diet

Some foods can increase inflammation in the body, while others have more anti-inflammatory effects.

Foods that can increase inflammation include fried foods, cured meats, trans fats, refined carbs and sugars. Following a Mediterranean-style diet, on the other hand—which is rich in fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel), olives, olive oil, nuts and dark, leafy green veggies—may help decrease inflammation.

Fruits and vegetables can also have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, as many of them contain polyphenols, which are disease-fighting compounds that can help protect against the development of certain cancers, heart disease and other chronic inflammatory diseases.

Here are some fruits and veggies to put on your next grocery list:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Onions
  • Chili peppers
  • Red cabbage
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Berries (all varieties)
  • Cherries

Have you ever heard of Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA)? CSAs help both farmers and consumers. With a membership or subscription, a local farm will supply you with fresh, local, seasonal produce every week. Interested? Read more at

From the Local Harvest website, you can access a directory of farmer’s markets close to you. Make choices today that will enable you to reap a harvest of health in years to come.

Reduce inflammation with exercise

In addition to healthy eating habits, it’s important to include fitness in your routine. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week for adults. Whether you enjoy walking around your neighborhood or going to a community workout class, find exercise habits that work for you and your lifestyle so you can stay consistent.

Manage your stress levels

Since stress can also play a role in chronic inflammation, be sure to manage your stress levels with healthy coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques. Self-care and mental health look different for everyone, but like physical health, they are essential to your overall wellness. (Explore more tips for taking care of your mental health.)


Take advantage of available support

If your workplace offers health coaching through Labcorp, consider connecting with our team of healthcare professionals to support you with these lifestyle habits. Together, we can define your health goals and develop a path for reaching them.

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