As we age it can start to impact our immune system. Inflammation and infections weaken your body's defenses, making you more likely to catch any illnesses going around. The immune system includes a lot of different components, including cells that directly attack invading microbes and other cells that coordinate the overall immune response. While there are no surefire ways to directly boost immunity or guarantee protection from all diseases, improving your overall health helps keep your immune system strong.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Making healthy choices is the first step to keeping your immune system functioning properly. If you smoke, quitting can help improve immune health. Excessive alcohol consumption may reduce your white blood cells' ability to fight off infections. Getting a little sunshine each day keeps your vitamin D production high, which helps your immune system, but too much causes damage to your skin and may be harmful to your immune system. Seniors also need to stay up to date on all vaccinations, including the annual flu vaccine and any boosters they might need.
Sleep has an effect on immunity. Health problems that keep you awake, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, can leave you prone to illness, while a good night's rest lets your immune system recharge. If you have trouble sleeping, try creating a nightly ritual when getting ready for bed to get your body and mind in the right mood for rest. Keeping your room cool and dark also helps promote healthy sleep patterns.
Senior Nutrition and Immunity
The foods you eat have an effect on every system in your body, including your immune system. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid processed foods. Seniors often have less variety in their diets compared to kids or younger adults, which can lead to deficiencies in specific micro-nutrients. Try to eat a wide range of foods to prevent low-level deficiencies that could hamper immune function. If dental issues or stomach upset makes it hard to eat specific food groups, talk to a doctor or dentist to get relief or figure out how to get the necessary vitamins and minerals elsewhere.
Maintaining a healthy weight is also important for immune health. Abdominal fat can cause inflammation, so losing weight has an anti-inflammatory effect. A nutritious diet helps you lose weight in a steady, sustainable way.
Exercise for Immune Health
Going to the gym is good for everything from maintaining muscle strength to keeping your heart healthy, and it also may boost your immune system. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise three times each week. Low-impact exercises, including water aerobics, walking and tai chi, are fine if you aren't up for intense activity. Regular physical exercise also helps boost cardiovascular and brain health. Brightview Senior Living communities encourage a vibrant lifestyle centered around Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Cultural, and Emotional wellness.
Ongoing stress and your body's reaction to it could dampen your immune responses. When you experience ongoing stress, your body produces a compound called cortisol. High levels of cortisol cause a decrease in the number of white blood cells, the immune cells that fight off viruses, which can leave you vulnerable to infections. Reducing stress often involves setting limits for yourself. Pay attention to your emotional state and set aside time to relax and recharge when you need a break. Hobbies, such as gardening or making art, often provide stress relief while keeping your mind engaged. Include relaxing activities and mindfulness in your regular routine to protect against long-term stress responses. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, help prevent an immediate fight-or-flight reaction to stress and keep cortisol levels under control.
Using Herbs and Supplements to Boost Immunity
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of evidence that specific herbs or supplements can boost immune functioning. Many products promoted as helping the immune system don't have scientific evidence backing up those claims.
At Brightview Senior Living, we believe that an active, vibrant lifestyle can help keep seniors healthy. Fill out the form below to learn more about Brightview Senior Living communities in your area.