Inflammation, the body''s basic defense against infection and injury, may indeed be the cause of colon cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer''s disease.

Keeping it simple, inflammation fights off infections and keeps us healthy. Too much of a good thing may predispose us all to disease.

In out heart, the tiny plaque of cholesterol in the arteries of the heart causes inflammation. The greater the inflammatory response the body has, the greater the chance the plaque will burst and cause a heart attack or stroke. In the brain of someone with Alzheimer''s disease, the body tries to return things to normal, but along the way, cytokines are released, increasing inflammation in the brain and causing more destruction and damage.

A marker in the blood for inflammation is C-reactive Protein (CRP). Researchers found that modest elevation of the blood protein was associated with an increased risk of heart attack in healthy men.

Statins, used to lower cholesterol in the blood, also reduce levels of CRP, as does aspirin, a potent anti-inflammatory drug. Exercise, diets low in saturated fats, fruits and vegetables, and keeping your teeth clean all reduce inflammation in the body.

Researchers are now finding that almost every disease, from asthma to arthritis, is a result of the delicately balanced inflammatory system in the body running out of control. New drugs are being developed to offset the damage due to out of control inflammation, and simple measures such a low dose aspirin may helpful in more than just preventing heart disease.