This is not an attempt to review the research literature on the role of chronic Inflammation in biological aging. It is merely an attempt to point those with whom I have been discussing the issue toward relevant research literature.
It is widely known that chronic inflammation can speed age related functional decline even when it is low grade and asymptomatic. Low grade chronic inflammation can reduce the number of years during which a person is relatively free of disability and serious illness (Finch, 2007: Youm, 2013).
Autoimmune diseases ARE serious illnesses characterized by chronic inflammation. The span of a person’s life that is healthy comes to an end with the onset of autoimmune symptoms – which can precede the diagnosis by years. The chronic inflammation associated with autoimmune illnesses can destroy organs and bring disability and/or death even in those who are chronologically young.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is often considered to be the “prototypic” autoimmune disease. In the 1950s only 50% of those diagnosed with lupus survived for ten years. In the 21st century, the 10 year survival rate is around 90%.
As a consequence, more patients with SLE are reaching advanced ages. However, their biological age often exceeds their chronological age as they suffer from significant organ dysfunction due to accumulated tissue damage in kidneys, brain, lungs and the cardiovascular system, which predicts morbidity and mortality in SLE. Various manifestations associated with old age, such as cardiovascular diseases or increased susceptibility to infections, are often found within the heterogeneous clinical spectrum in SLE patients, either as sequelae of disease course or medication (van den Hoogen, L. L, et al. 2015, 2).
Finch, C.E. (2007). The Biology of Human Longevity – Inflammation, Nutrition, and Aging in the Evolution of Lifespans Burlington: Elsevier Science.
van den Hoogen, L. L., Sims, G. P., van Roon, J. A., & Fritsch-Stork, R. D. (2015). Aging and systemic lupus erythematosus – immunosenescence and beyond. Current Aging Science, 8(2), 158-177. doi:CAS-EPUB-69078 [pii]
Pdf available from
Youm, Y., Grant, R., McCabe, L., Albarado, D., Nguyen, K., Ravussin, A., . . . Dixit, V. (2013). Canonical Nlrp3 inflammasome links systemic low-grade inflammation to functional decline in aging. Cell Metabolism, 18(4), 519-532. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2013.09.010.