Chronic Inflammation: An Invisible Issue

Byron F. Harper III, MD
By Byron F. Harper III, MD
June 16, 2021

It's inevitable that when you bump into your desk, cut yourself while cooking, or strain a muscle playing sports that the area is bound to be sore, become red or swell. This is known as inflammation, which can happen as a result of an injury or infection. Your body then helps to accelerate the healing process by releasing white blood cells that close around the infected or injured area and serve to fend off any foreign threats. You typically see or feel inflammation in the form of pain, tenderness, swelling, redness or warmth of the affected joints or tissues.

What is chronic inflammation:

However, as the popular maxim goes, "there can be too much of a good thing." While inflammation is a natural, beneficial response, too much inflammation for too long leads to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation takes place when your body continues to prolong its inflammatory response to the point where your immune system is on the attack non-stop and attacks healthy organs and tissues as a result. In the bloodstream, for instance, higher levels of chronic inflammation are reflected by elevated levels of an enzyme called myeloperoxidase (MPO), a biomarker for vascular inflammation and elevated high sensitivity c-reactive protein levels.

Why chronic inflammation matters:

Unfortunately, chronic inflammation and its effects are often "invisible." Research shows chronic inflammation can trigger disease processes that cause significant damage to your blood vessels, heart, brain, liver, gastrointestinal system, and joints. It's often linked to medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and arthritis.

Unfortunately, we can't physically "see" the progression and harmful effects of the diseases mentioned above until they manifest into physical symptoms. Experts have found that chronic inflammation has typically done serious, often irreversible damage by the time medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes are diagnosed. This is why it's important to take appropriate preventative action and not wait until you feel the possible effects of inflammation before addressing it.

What you can do about chronic inflammation:

So, how can you best manage, and even minimize, chronic inflammation and its impact on your body? Fortunately, simple lifestyle changes and partnering with your physician can help you stay on top of it.

Eating a healthy diet full of rich antioxidant foods like leafy green vegetables, onions, berries, grapes, and nuts can help reduce inflammation naturally. Take steps to decrease your consumption of foods and drinks that are high in sugar because they have been found to negatively influence or increase inflammation. Also, find ways to exercise regularly - whether it's a workout at the gym, yoga, a walk around the neighborhood or several trips up and down the stairs.

Knowledge truly is power, and knowing your inflammatory status enables you to be more proactive and substantially reduce your risk. A recent study revealed, "that knowledge of patients' MPO [myeloperoxidase level] led to a 68.5 percent reduction in risk for cardiovascular events among diabetics, a 73.7 percent reduction in risk for pre-diabetics, and a 72.2 percent reduction in risk for nondiabetic patients." You can learn your inflammatory status through blood tests that detect the presence of myeloperoxidase and look at your C-reactive protein level. Based on your results, you and your physician can take appropriate steps to address your inflammation level and come up with a plan to help you decrease it and any damaging effects.

You are your most important and best advocate, so ensure that you have a physician who will join you in looking below the surface to adequately manage your inflammatory status and help you achieve your best health possible.

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About the Physician
Byron F. Harper III, MD

To me, your health is your greatest treasure and possession, next to family and faith. Thehonor and privilege that comes with being both your personal physician and a partner in your health journey humbles me and stirs in me a passion to provide you with the ideal environment that promotes better health.

I utilize an approach that champions the patient-physician partnership. In a relaxed,
unhurried environment during your visits, we will take the necessary time to help make sure there is a mutual understanding between us so that you are knowledgeable about your health options and assured that I understand your concerns and needs.  This includes a personalized healthcare plan focused on helping you to reach your goals by tailoring wellness, prevention, treatment and primary care specifically to you and your needs! 

A graduate of Emory University School of Medicine, I am a second-generation internal
medicine physician, board certified by the American Board of Medicine. Growing up in
both Coweta County and Fayette County and having practiced for over 30 years in the South Atlanta region, I have deep roots and understanding in the culture and uniqueness of these communities and the families who live here. I currently practice in Peachtree City, Georgia, and I am affiliated with Piedmont Fayette Hospital. I also serve as the Medical Director for Southwest Christian Care, a non-profit hospice facility in South Fulton County, for over 25 years. My special interests and experience include,
cardiovascular health, diabetes, hypertension, preventive care and nutrition.

You can be assured that my staff and I will strive to go above and beyond to care for
you as a person, support you and work with you to help you achieve your personal health goals and enjoy a healthier life. My MDVIP-affiliated practice offers services (including comprehensive, advanced health screenings and diagnostic tests) that go far beyond those found in concierge medicine practices. We look forward to making you feel like family.

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