Acute (short-term) inflammation is a normal response of the body when the immune system deals with stress such as infection, injury or damage to an organ. In young and healthy individuals, this acute response is necessary and efficient in protecting against all types of infection (bacteria, viruses and other microbes), including the virus that causes COVID-19. However, these same inflammatory responses can cause problems as we get older. Chronic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes are also more common with age, and both of these diseases include an abnormal immune response. This leads to chronic (long-term) inflammation. Men are more likely to develop chronic inflammation than women. Old age, male sex, and obesity/type 2 diabetes are likely to produce more chronic inflammation. This can make the immune system over-react to triggers such as new infections (this is called a “cytokine storm”). The new COVID-19 pandemic with the existing chronic inflammation pandemic related to older age, male sex, and social factors in minority groups create a perfect storm. It is important that we do more to reduce both pandemics.
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