Are you constantly plagued with a cold or flu? Do you take longer to recover from an illness? If your answer is yes, perhaps it’s time to pay attention to your immune system.
Maintaining a healthy immune system is a good way to protect ourselves, but unfortunately as we age the immune system becomes less effective than it once was. It’s slower to respond, which increases your risk of getting sick and makes you more susceptible to infections and it makes healing from illness or injury take longer.1
The decline is a perfectly natural part of aging, but there are steps you can take to protect – and even boost – your immune system to increase your chances of staying as healthy as possible. These simple but important steps are recommended by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)2:
Get your vaccinations. The CDC recommends the annual flu shot, the pneumonia vaccine, the Zoster vaccine (for shingles) and Tdap (for tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis). Check with your doctor to find out which vaccines are right for you and when you should get them.
Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity helps to boost the production of immune system cells and lowers inflammation in your body, so get up and move! Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise regime, particularly if you have any underlying medical conditions.
Get a good night’s sleep. It’s sometimes easier said than done, but a good, restorative rest is critical for maintaining good health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep (and staying asleep), talk to your doctor.
Eat a healthy diet. Make sure at least half of your plate is filled with colorful vegetables, because that rainbow means you’re getting a wide range of healthy nutrients. In addition, make at least half of your grains whole grains, and ensure that your diet is protein rich. Visit the USDA to learn more about the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables, grains and protein you should be enjoying every day. Y
Manage your stress. What goes on in your mind can affect your body, so make sure you are taking steps to maintain good mental health, and talk to your doctor if you have any troubling symptoms that may suggest depression or an anxiety disorder. Consider meditation, take care of your important relationships, do something crafty like coloring, practice calming breathing exercises and watch your anxiety levels.
Stop smoking. Smoking weakens the immune system, which is troublesome as you age because it declines naturally on its own, so just butt out!
Stay balanced. Falls are common as we age, but a weakened immune system makes it more difficult to recover from injuries. Ensure your home is safe and free of tripping hazards, install grab bars and other safety devices as needed, use assistive walking devices like canes and walkers, and try balance exercises to help improve your stability.
For more tips on boosting your immune system as you age, and for more information on the immune system in general, visit WebMD.
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