To assess your health and figure out whether you have unchecked inflammation, Dr. Sadaty recommends asking your doctor to check your fasting blood sugar, fasting insulin level, A1c (a measure of your average blood sugar over the past three months), and liver function. She also recommends checking levels of an inflammation marker called C-reactive protein (CRP) with a "high-sensitivity" CRP test; testing for the presence of anti-nucleic acid (ANA) antibodies (when cells get destroyed, they release nucleic acid into the blood and your immune system attacks it); and doing a ferritin test (ferritin, an iron storage protein, also leaks out when cells are damaged).
But even without these tests, you can still take steps to decrease inflammation in your body. Dr. Sadaty suggests focusing on anti-inflammatory lifestyle changes. The key moves: Eat an anti-inflammatory diet, get adequate sleep, manage your stress, and get enough exercise.
Anti-inflammatory foods include fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and olive oil. Many spices, including turmeric (a key ingredient in curry dishes), also have potent anti-inflammatory powers. Stay away from processed foods, sugar, produce that's high in pesticides (organic foods are preferable), and canola and safflower oil. If you're currently overweight, eating a healthier diet and scaling back on calories should help you shed some pounds, which will also decrease inflammation.
Also important: If a particular food makes you feel bloated or causes you to break out in a rash, stop eating it. When you consume something that doesn't agree with you (even if you're not technically allergic), it will cause inflammation.
Sleep is crucial because your immune system calms down and cells regenerate while you're snoozing. "Studies have shown that people with insomnia secrete more inflammatory cytokines at a higher rate," says Dr. Sadaty. Most adults need about eight hours. If you're falling short, try heading to bed 15 minutes earlier each night, cut off caffeine in the early afternoon, and stop screen time at least an hour before your desired sleep time.
Stress management is also really important because when you're freaking out, your body secretes a hormone called cortisol. That's helpful in the short term when you're facing an immediate crisis and need to kick into "fight or flight" mode. But when cortisol levels remain elevated for too long, you end up with—you guessed it—inflammation, as well as a host of other symptoms.
When it comes to exercise, most health experts suggest aiming for 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. Whether you walk, jog, swim, or dance, regular movement helps you keep your blood sugar down and maintain a healthy weight. While most Americans fail to get enough exercise, Dr. Sadaty also warns against going to extremes. If you're constantly pushing yourself to your physical max and not building in adequate rest time, it will stress your body and contribute to inflammation.
For bonus points, talk to your doctor about adding inflammation-fighting supplements to your regimen. Dr. Sadaty's top picks are curcumin (an antioxidant-rich extract from the turmeric plant), fish oil, vitamin D, and probiotics (to reduce inflammation in the gut). "I think those four are no-brainers for almost everyone," she says.