You’re Only as Young as Your Immune System!
The main function of your immune system is to help protect your body from foreign or harmful substances, such as bacteria, viruses, toxins, cancer cells, and blood or tissues from another person. By making cells and antibodies, the immune system can destroy these harmful substances and keep your body healthy.
Unfortunately, as you grow older, your immune system becomes slower to respond. This increases your risk of getting sick and the time it takes for your body to heal. The good news is that a healthy lifestyle along with healthy living strategies can improve immune health to better prevent and fight disease. Try these 10 simple, yet vital immune boosters for seniors
1. Get a flu vaccination
Getting your annual flu shot is one of the most effective ways to shield yourself from the flu. The flu shot is shown to reduce the risk of hospitalizations in older adults by 40 percent and can reduce the overall risk of flu infection by 40 to 60 percent.
2. Eat well-balanced meals
On top of weakening your immune system, poor nutrition or malnutrition can also affect heart health and memory, lead to type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer, and weaken bones and muscles. In order to prepare nutrient-dense meals, be sure to include a variety of vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, low-fat dairy, and a variety of protein foods. Here are some healthy snack ideas to get your taste buds tingling!
3. Drink plenty of water
We can’t stress the importance of hydration for seniors enough, but we’ll try! Water is essential for life and used by the body to support healthy blood flow, joints and muscles, and organ function.
Not sure how much is enough? The National Council on Aging uses a simple formula: divide your body weight by 3, and that’s the number of ounces of water you need daily. If you weigh 150 pounds, for instance, you should consume 50 oz.—about six 8-oz. glassfuls.
4. Stay active
It’s really important to maintain an active lifestyle at all ages, as moving has many benefits. As well as keeping you strong and mobile, regular exercise will increase blood circulation and have an anti-inflammatory effect on your body. For seniors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:
- at least 150 minutes of moderately intense activity every week
- muscle building exercises twice a week
5. Keep stress at bay
Over time, chronic stress will increase the production of cortisol, which can have negative effects on the body, including lowering your immune response. To help stay healthy and minimize the negative impact of stress on your health, try some of these stress-busting activities for seniors.
6. Catch plenty of Zs!
Quality sleep becomes increasingly more essential as you age, and can actually improve brain function, concentration, and memory. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can cause a multitude of issues, like reducing the effectiveness of the immune system.
7. Wash your hands
It’s a simple one, but washing your hands thoroughly can help prevent the spread of disease-causing germs from one person to another. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hand washing often, but especially during these key times:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before and after eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet or changing diapers
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
8. Quit smoking
People who smoke are more likely to have respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia. To improve your immune system function and give your body a better chance at fighting disease, consider taking steps to quit or reduce smoking.
9. Limit alcohol consumption
Although alcohol consumption is usually associated with liver damage, both moderate and chronic alcohol use can significantly impact the immune system. By reducing the number of antibodies available to fight off infection, alcohol makes it easier to get ill and harder to recover from illness.
10. Enjoy the outdoors
Being outside is fantastic for your health: It can reduce stress and provide you with vitamin D from moderate sun exposure. When your vitamin D levels are adequate, they help strengthen your immune system and may help prevent inflammation and some autoimmune diseases.
Age Comfortably in an Independent or Assisted Living Community
The ability to age comfortably in an independent or assisted living community is often a very important goal for older adults. Knowing where you’re going to be, and that you made the right decision, will have a huge impact on your overall well-being.
At Winnwood, we are committed to helping our residents stay active, eat a good mix of fresh foods, spend a moderate amount of time outside in the sun and enjoy the most stress-free retirement possible. You can experience resort-style living every day of the year, whilst partaking in the right kind of activities to keep your immune system in good shape. It’s a win, win!