Ways to Reduce Inflammation

1. Stop smoking. Smoking hardens the arteries and could send CRP levels surging. But research shows you can reverse all the damaging effects to your arteries within 10 years of quitting.

2. Think olive oil, fish, and nuts. Researchers have shown that overweight folks who stick with a Mediterranean-style diet—based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and olive oil—can lower their levels of inflammation. "An anti-inflammatory diet is about reducing saturated fat and trans fats and eating more foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid—like flaxseed, walnuts, and canola oil—and omega-3 fats, which fight inflammation," says Evangeline Lausier, a staff physician at Duke Integrative Medicine. On the flip side, scientists have shown that the typical American fast-food diet increases heart attack risk by 30 percent.

3. Get active. No one wants to exercise, but it's a great way to lower inflammation without any side effects associated with medications. An ideal amount? Not too much (which raises inflammation) and not too little. Aim for five days a week of steady exercise (brisk walking, swimming, biking) for 30 to 45 minutes.

4. Shrink your waist size. Take a tape measure and measure your waist, right around the point of your bellybutton. If you're a woman with a waist measurement of over 35 inches or a man with a waist of over 40 inches, you probably have high inflammation. Whittling a few inches off the waist by reducing your portions and increasing activity can go a long way toward solving that problem.

5. Get enough sleep. A study shows that elderly people with high blood pressure who sleep less than 7.5 hours a night have dramatically elevated chances of having a stroke or heart attack or suffering sudden cardiac death. Other research has shown that too little sleep (less than six hours) or too much (more than eight hours) results in more inflammation. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says most adults need between seven and eight hours of shut-eye a night.

6. Reduce stress. High levels of stress hormones can lead to the release of excess inflammatory chemicals, so try each day to pencil in 15 minutes of relaxation—deep breathing, meditation, or a bubble bath that lets you leave the world behind.

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