Keeping your Immune System Strong
With aging comes change in the body’s immunity. The body’s defense system doesn’t work as well as it did in its younger days. Fortunately, there are steps older adults can take to compensate for the immune system’s decline. It’s important to do so to protect yourself from viruses and other health conditions.
Most people are hesitant to take medications or receive vaccinations that might not be necessary. That’s why seniors should first discuss natural immune system boosters with their physicians. Here are a few the doctor might recommend for a strong immune system:
Consume a well-balanced diet: While this is important at every age, it is especially so for older adults. A healthy diet is the best way to take in the vitamins, minerals, and protein necessary for a strong immune system. Vitamin supplements should be considered just that: supplements. You shouldn’t rely too heavily on vitamins because the body absorbs and processes medications and supplements differently during older adulthood. That can make the benefits of supplements inconsistent. Talk with your primary care physician to see what type of diet they recommend. Two leading ones are the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet.
Get a good night’s rest: The body needs sleep to regenerate. This recovery time is even more important for older adults, who are more susceptible to inflammation, infection, and fatigue. Most health experts recommend eight hours of quality sleep per night. Unfortunately, older adults also suffer from insomnia in higher numbers than younger people. If you or a senior you love suffers from insomnia, help from a physician or sleep disorder specialist is vital.
Exercise and stay active: Exercise is another intervention to keep your immune system strong as you age. Exercising for 30 minutes at least five days a week may help you fight off illnesses. In conjunction with exercise, avoid sitting for long periods of time. A sedentary lifestyle is linked to health problems ranging from diabetes to high blood pressure.
Stay hydrated: People often underestimate the importance of good hydration. Water helps with energy, digestion, skin health, and sleep. It also allows the body to better absorb vitamins and minerals and eliminate waste. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day. For example, a senior weighing 180 pounds should drink 90 ounces of water, broth, natural fruit juice, or tea each day. Consuming foods that have a high water content such as leafy greens, berries, and melon will also help.
Manage stress: Stress management is another immune booster people aren’t usually aware of. Among the many negative health issues caused by too much stress is havoc wreaked on the immune system. Stress decreases lymphocytes, the white blood cells that help the body fight off infection. It also increases cortisol production. Over time, too much cortisol can increase inflammation. There are a variety of ways you can manage stress without medication, including journaling, meditation, yoga, walking, and swimming.
Our final suggestion for boosting your immune system is to work with your physician to stay current on immunizations. Most recommend an annual flu shot, as well as staying up to date with shingles, Tdap, and pneumonia vaccines.