Tips to fight disease and strengthen immunity
Keeping seniors’ immune systems strong is important, especially during the cold and flu season. Because they’re more vulnerable to infections, seniors need to take extra precautions to ensure they stay healthy.
To function well, the immune system requires balance and harmony. What that means exactly, we don’t know, as nothing has been scientifically proven to directly link lifestyle with a healthy immune system. Researchers are continuously exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, stress and other factors on the response of the immune system. But most experts would say that the best way to increase your immune system would require a healthy-living approach.
What should everyone do?
- Don’t smoke
- Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Keep your blood pressure under control.
- Cut out alcohol or only drink in moderation.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Take any steps necessary to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently.
- Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group and risk category.
What should seniors do?
We need to recognize that compared with younger people, seniors are more prone to infectious diseases and are more likely to die from them. Respiratory infections, influenza and pneumonia are the leading causes of death in people ages 65 and older.
On top of the list above, seniors should also do the following:
- Get vaccinated.
- Talk to their doctor about dietary supplements (multivitamins and/or herbal supplement) as older people tend to eat less thereby missing very important vitamins and trace minerals.
- Reduce stress as it can make the elderly more prone to viruses.
- Try to stay positive in order to boost endorphins which make us feel good.
- Drink plenty of water to reduce the risk of catching a cold or the flu.
Good health habits tend to keeping seniors happy, active and positive. It’s important so that they can stay healthy and enjoy the most out of life.
Boosting Seniors’ Immune Systems
The following tips can help keep seniors’ immune systems going strong. They can also help seniors who do catch a cold or other minor illness recover faster and prevent a more serious health issue. (Sources: Harvard and WebMD, unless otherwise noted.)
1. Get vaccinated. Flu vaccines have shown to be effective for around one-quarter of older adults. And seniors who get the flu vaccine have significantly lower rates of sickness and death.
2. Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. Older people tend to eat less and have less variety in their diets. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and zinc are essential to good health. So is maintaining a low-sugar, low-fat diet that incorporates whole grains and lean proteins.
3. Exercise. Regular physical activity promotes circulation, heart health, and relaxes the body and mind. Walks, bike rides, yoga classes and other forms of exercise help boost seniors’ immune system performance and ward off infections.
4. Reduce stress. Stress has been linked to a number of illnesses, including stomach problems and heart disease. Whether it’s social stress, isolation or another form, stress can suppress seniors’ immune system, making them more susceptible to viruses.
5. Sleep. A natural immune system booster, sleep helps us respond better to stress and inflammation. It’s also shown to improve our response to the flu vaccine.
6. Wash hands. Washing hands regularly scrubs away germs. And covering sneezes and coughs helps prevent diseases from spreading.
7. Stay positive. A healthy outlook on life boosts endorphins, which make us feel good. Seniors who keep up with activities and hobbies that make them happy or challenge them in an enjoyable way have a better chance of staying positive and healthy.
8. Try some superfoods. Foods like kale, broccoli, avocados, certain mushrooms, berries and others have shown to improve seniors’ immune system performance. Some superfoods even boost cognitive function and help fight Alzheimer’s disease.
9. Consider multivitamin or herbal supplements. An option for increasing nutrients and fighting infections, seniors should talk to their doctors first before adding multivitamins or herbs, such as echinacea, ginseng or probiotics, to their regimen.
10. Stay hydrated. Seniors tend to sense thirst less than younger people. But they need at least eight or nine glasses of fluid a day to keep mucous membranes moist, which lowers the chances of flu or colds. Water, coffee, tea and soup all count.
Illness isn’t inevitable for the elderly. Good health habits lend to keeping seniors happy and active so they can enjoy the most out of life.