With all the talk about viruses and immunity recently, it makes sense to learn more about strengthening the immune system. It’s especially important for older adults. Immunity changes with age, and the body’s defense systems don’t work as well as they did in younger days.
Fortunately, seniors can adapt their lifestyle to help compensate for the immune system’s age-related decline. While coronavirus concerns linger, staying as healthy and strong as possible is essential.
6 Steps to a Stronger Immune System
People are often reluctant to take medications or receive vaccinations that may not be necessary. While both can pump up immunity, there are natural immune system boosters to discuss with your primary care physicians.
Your doctor might suggest the following to strengthen the immune system when you are older:
- Well-balanced diet: Nutrition is a core component of health at every age. A well-balanced diet is the best way to get the vitamins, minerals, and protein necessary for a strong immune system. As we age, the body doesn’t process nutrients like it used to. While supplements may be necessary, food should be the first line of defense. Ask your physician what type of diet they recommend. One often suggested by health professionals is the DASH diet. It’s linked to longer life and fewer incidences of disease.
- Movement: Staying active is another step to keep your immune system strong as you age. Most seniors should exercise for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. Hand in hand with exercise is avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for long periods of time contributes to health problems from diabetes to high blood pressure.
- Sleep: The body needs quality sleep to regenerate. Recovery time is essential for seniors, who are especially susceptible to inflammation and infection. Sleep issues, especially insomnia, are more common in older adults. If you or the senior you are a caregiver for are struggling to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, talk with a physician. An underlying medical issue might be the cause.
- Hydration: It’s easy to underestimate the importance of good hydration. But staying hydrated is vital for digestion, skin health, energy, and sleep. It also promotes better absorption of vitamins and minerals and aids in eliminating waste. Healthy adults should drink half their weight in ounces of water every day. If you aren’t a fan of water, many foods have a high water content. Celery, melon, berries, cucumber, and leafy greens are a few.
- Stress management: Chronic stress takes a toll on the body, especially the immune system. White blood cells known as lymphocytes help the body fight off infection. Long-term stress increases cortisol production, which increases inflammation. Research links inflammation to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and lupus. Explore healthy ways to reduce stress, such as meditation, Tai Chi, walking, or journaling.
- Vaccines: One last suggestion to help you or a senior loved one boost your immune system is to stay current on immunizations. Most older adults need an annual flu shot in the fall. Also speak with your doctor about receiving the shingles and pneumonia vaccines, as well as Tdap.
Live Well at Five Star Senior Living
From a flexible dining program to daily life enrichment activities, Five Star Senior Living communities allow older adults to thrive. If you haven’t visited a community before, anytime is a great time to take a tour. If you feel more comfortable, we can even arrange a virtual visit! Your safety matters.
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