The Role of Inflammaging in Aging and Disease

Inflammaging, a term coined to describe the chronic, low-grade inflammation that occurs as part of the aging process, has significant implications for health and longevity. As we age, our bodies experience a gradual increase in inflammatory markers, which can lead to various chronic diseases and conditions.

Manuela Băbuș
Medical Writer
The Role of Inflammaging in Aging and Disease
source: Freep!k

What is Inflammaging?

Inflammaging is the persistent, low-level inflammation that occurs with aging. Unlike acute inflammation, which is a short-term response to injury or infection, inflammaging is a chronic process that often goes unnoticed but can contribute to numerous age-related diseases, including cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders.

Aging involves complex changes in the immune system, leading to a decline in its function.

Studies show that some centenarians avoid frailty and chronic diseases through immunological adaptation, despite the presence of inflammaging.

Causes of Inflammaging

Several factors contribute to the development of inflammaging:

  1. Genetic Susceptibility: Certain genetic variants are associated with higher levels of inflammatory markers, making some individuals more prone to chronic inflammation as they age.
  2. Cellular Senescence: As cells age, they enter a state of senescence where they stop dividing but continue to release pro-inflammatory substances, contributing to chronic inflammation.
  3. Immune System Decline: The efficiency of the immune system decreases with age, leading to an imbalance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses.
  4. Chronic Infections: Persistent infections, such as those caused by viruses like cytomegalovirus, can maintain a state of chronic inflammation.
  5. Lifestyle Factors: Poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and chronic stress can exacerbate inflammation and accelerate the aging process.
  6. Visceral Obesity: Excess fat, particularly around the abdomen, can produce inflammatory substances that contribute to chronic inflammation.
  7. Microbiota Changes: The microbiota plays a crucial role in immune system development and maintenance.

Dietary components influence the microbiota and immune responses. Short-chain fatty acids produced by gut bacteria have anti-inflammatory properties. On the other hand, age-related changes in gut microbiota can increase gut permeability, allowing bacteria and their products to enter the bloodstream and promote inflammation.

Symptoms of Inflammaging

While inflammaging itself may not have specific symptoms, it can contribute to a range of health issues commonly associated with aging:

  • Fatigue: Chronic tiredness and lack of energy.
  • Joint Pain: Persistent pain or stiffness in the joints.
  • Digestive Issues: Problems such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.
  • Cognitive Decline: Memory loss, difficulty concentrating, or slower cognitive function.
  • Cardiovascular Problems: High blood pressure, atherosclerosis, or other heart-related issues.

Consequences of Inflammaging

The long-term consequences of inflammaging can be severe, leading to various chronic diseases:

  1. Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs): Chronic inflammation is a significant risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions.
  2. Neurodegenerative Disorders: Conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease are linked to chronic inflammation in the brain.
  3. Metabolic Syndrome: Inflammaging is associated with insulin resistance, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  4. Cancer: Persistent inflammation can damage DNA and promote the development of cancerous cells.
  5. Osteoporosis: Chronic inflammation can accelerate bone loss, leading to osteoporosis and increased fracture risk.

Inflammatory markers

The researchers measured the circulating concentrations of several inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), and interleukin-6 (IL-6), in both adult and older adult populations.

The results showed that the levels of these inflammatory markers were significantly elevated in older adults. This confirms that inflammaging, characterized by increased inflammation, is present in older individuals.

Inflammaging vs acute inflammation

Inflammaging is characterized by the chronic activation of the immune system, leading to the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress. This process can contribute to the development of various age-related diseases.

This is in contrast to the acute inflammation that occurs in response to an infection or injury, which is a normal and necessary immune response. Therefore, the key difference is that inflammaging is a chronic, systemic inflammation associated with aging, while other forms of inflammation are more acute and localized responses to specific stimuli. 

Therapeutic Strategies

Given the significant impact of chronic inflammation on disease progression, therapeutic strategies aimed at reducing inflammation may be effective in improving treatment outcomes. These strategies could include the use of anti-inflammatory medications, immunomodulatory therapies, and lifestyle interventions such as exercise and a balanced diet.

Prevention of Inflammaging

Preventing inflammaging involves adopting a healthy lifestyle and managing factors that contribute to chronic inflammation. Here are some strategies:

  1. Healthy Diet: Eat a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fatty fish. Reduce intake of processed foods, sugar, and trans fats.
  2. Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity to reduce inflammation and improve overall health. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  3. Stress Management: Practice stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises.
  4. Adequate Sleep: Ensure sufficient and quality sleep to maintain immune function and reduce inflammation.
  5. Avoid Smoking and Limit Alcohol: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can increase inflammation and accelerate aging.

Treatment of Inflammaging

While prevention is the best approach, certain treatments can help manage the effects of inflammaging:

  1. Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce inflammation but should be used cautiously due to potential side effects.
  2. Supplements: Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, and antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce chronic inflammation.
  3. Medical Interventions: For severe inflammaging-related conditions, medical treatments such as biologics or other immune-modulating therapies may be necessary.
  4. Regular Check-Ups: Regular health check-ups can help monitor and manage chronic conditions associated with inflammaging.

Chronic inflammation can exacerbate disease severity and impact treatment outcomes. Therefore, therapeutic strategies aimed at reducing inflammation may be effective in improving disease management and patient outcomes.


Inflammaging is a critical concept that highlights the role of chronic inflammation in aging and age-related diseases. By understanding its causes, symptoms, and consequences, we can take proactive steps to prevent and treat this condition. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, managing stress, and staying active are key strategies in combating inflammaging and promoting a healthier, longer life. For those already experiencing its effects, medical interventions and lifestyle adjustments can help manage and reduce its impact.


The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

Article Citations & Bibliography
  1. Zuo L, Prather ER, Stetskiv M, Garrison DE, Meade JR, Peace TI, Zhou T. Inflammaging and Oxidative Stress in Human Diseases: From Molecular Mechanisms to Novel Treatments. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 10;20(18):4472. doi: 10.3390/ijms20184472. PMID: 31510091; PMCID: PMC6769561.
  2. Ferrucci L, Fabbri E. Inflammageing: chronic inflammation in ageing, cardiovascular disease, and frailty. Nat Rev Cardiol. 2018 Sep;15(9):505-522. doi: 10.1038/s41569-018-0064-2. PMID: 30065258; PMCID: PMC6146930.
  3. Batista et al. Inflammaging and Endemic Infectious Diseases. Frontiers in imunology 2020
  4. Alberro, A., Iribarren-Lopez, A., Sáenz-Cuesta, M. et al. Inflammaging markers characteristic of advanced age show similar levels with frailty and dependency. Sci Rep11, 4358 (2021).

Please note that the information provided on this blog is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

Share this post
Manuela Băbuș.
Medical Writer