How Chronic Brain Inflammation Contributes to Cognitive Decline

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Keep Sharp" by Sanjay Gupta. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Can your brain get inflamed? What happens when chronic inflammation develops in the brain?

Inflammation is meant to protect our bodies, but when it becomes chronic, it can be damaging. Chronic brain inflammation is one of the key factors in the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Here’s how chronic inflammation in the brain contributes to cognitive decline.

Brain Inflammation

Chronic brain inflammation is at the center of neurodegeneration. Research indicates that chronic inflammation both adds to and kick-starts the process of cognitive decline. For instance, some studies have linked dementia to higher levels of cytokines, which are released by cells during bouts of inflammation. Also, chronic inflammation in middle-aged adults has been linked to dementia later in life. Both of these findings suggest that chronic inflammation likely plays an important role in cognitive decline. 

Understanding Chronic Inflammation

Since, according to Gupta, chronic inflammation likely contributes to cognitive decline, it is vital to understand what it is, how it works, and its potential causes. Chronic inflammation occurs when the immune system’s response lingers longer than normal, and this response can also damage healthy cells. Not only is chronic inflammation linked to dementia, obesity, and diabetes, but it can also lead to asthma, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer

Chronic inflammation can be caused by many factors, including untreated infections or injuries, autoimmune disorders, or exposure to pollution or harmful chemicals. Things like smoking, alcohol use, and chronic stress can also lead to chronic inflammation, another reason to try to live a healthy, happy lifestyle.

How Chronic Brain Inflammation Contributes to Cognitive Decline

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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