Simple changes in diet can protect you against friendly fire

What you eat can fuel or cool inflammation, a key driver of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.

Published: February, 2007

Inflammation is an essential part of the body's healing system. Without it, injuries would fester and simple infections could be deadly. Too much of a good thing, though, is downright dangerous. Chronic low-grade inflammation is intimately involved in all stages of atherosclerosis, the process that leads to cholesterol-clogged arteries. This means that inflammation sets the stage for heart attacks, most strokes, peripheral artery disease, and even vascular dementia, a common cause of memory loss. Think of it as friendly fire "" yourself attacking yourself.

Inflammation doesn't happen on its own. It is the body's response to a host of modern irritations that our Stone Age genes haven't quite caught up to. The main ones are smoking, lack of exercise, high-fat and high-calorie meals, and highly processed foods.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »