Medical research enjoyed a major breakthrough over the past decade when two factors were isolated that link almost every major disorder: inflammation and stress. Neither came as a total surprise. Inflammation was long known as a paradoxical process in the body. Disease and injured tissues need an added supply of oxygen and immune cells in order to heal, but taken too far, as in the case of severe burns, and inflammation can lead to shock and even death.
Stress is more clear-cut, since it has always been associated with harmful effects in the body and is linked to many disorders from depression and anxiety to hypertension and lowered immunity. But a breakthrough occurred when it was suddenly realized that the culprits in disease and aging were not acute, dramatic instances of inflammation and stress. Instead, the damage to the body is low-level and steady, a chronic condition that does its damage slowly at the cellular level. It turns out that aging and chronic disease actually begin almost invisibly at the cellular level long before any symptoms appear, over a span of years or most probably decades.