Things tend to slow down a little as people age, and the immune system is no exception. Older people tend to get sick easier and take longer to recover from illnesses.
Although the immune system can decline with age, there are steps people can take throughout their lives to keep their immune system going strong. In general, a healthy lifestyle will benefit the immune system, from eating right to sleeping well and getting your shots.
Get some exercise
Regular exercise will improve a person’s overall health, which benefits the immune system. Exercise improves the cardiovascular system and protects a person’s body from some diseases. All of the specific immunity benefits from exercise aren’t yet determined, but a healthy lifestyle helps keep your immune system happy and healthy. Exercise may help cells move better and do their jobs right.
Eat a colorful diet
Your mom always told you to eat your fruits and vegetables, and she was right. Good nutrition helps boost your immune system, and a few essential components of your diet are especially helpful for boosting your immunity. Fill your plate with balanced portions that include protein, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E. Vitamin A can be found in orange and red foods like red peppers, carrots, and sweet potatoes, as well as spinach.
Vitamin C is a well-known immune system helper and is found in citrus fruits and strawberries, among other foods. Enjoy some nuts, nut butters and nut oils for your fill of Vitamin E, and enjoy lean meats, seafood, beans and seeds for zinc.
“Eating a diet filled with colorful fruits and vegetables is a proven way to bolster the immune system, but sometimes eating loads of vegetables is hard to do every day,” said LaShonda Mitchell, director of nursing at Desert Terrace Healthcare Center. “That is why we love to drink our fruits and vegetables. A morning smoothie is just the ticket for providing needed energy and the vitamins and minerals necessary to build a strong immune system.”
Go to sleep
Getting adequate sleep will help your immunity in more ways than one. It can help reduce stress, and it gives your body the physical rest it needs to stay healthy. Lack of sleep can make you more susceptible to illnesses you are exposed to and can make it take longer for you to get better when you are sick. Get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night to help your body fight off infections.
Get your vaccines
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As you age, it can be harder for your immune system to fight off illnesses. Give it the help it needs by getting recommended vaccinations. Get the flu vaccine every year, as well as the pneumococcal and meningococcal vaccines. Be sure to get the shingles vaccine if you are over age 50, even if you have had shingles before.
Be a homebody
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There’s no need to go overboard and become a recluse, but it may be wise to stay away from sick people when you can. Avoid shaking hands when people have a cold and wash your hands often. A little prevention can go a long way in helping your immune system do its job.
Your immune system may not be quite what is used to be, but it’s no slouch either. With a little help from a healthy lifestyle, your immune system can still fight off infections with the best of them.
This article was originally published in the Daily Herald.