With all the recent talk on how important your immune system is during times of contagious viral infections, it’s important to understand how to strengthen the immune system. To get to the science, your immune system is a complex array of protective cells produced by the thymus, spleen, lymph nodes and lymphoid tissues such as bone marrow and your gastrointestinal tract. It fights invasive foreign substances, cells and tissues in your body. White blood cells — specifically lymphocytes, including T-cells, B-cells and NK cells — neutrophils and monocytes and macrophages are the key cells in your immune system. That’s a lot of interesting medical jargon, but what we really need to know is how to boost immune systems in seniors.
Your immune system loses the capacity to perform at its optimal rate over time —unfortunately, it’s just part of getting older. As your body produces fewer T-cells and stem cells, your immune system’s ability to fight off infection decreases. While the science isn’t completely understood, scientists and physicians believe this decrease in production could be caused by a decrease in thymus function and bone marrow, which occur naturally as you age. Without clarity on the exact specifics of what habits and behaviors benefit these particular cells, scientists are constantly working on how to boost the immune system in seniors. These general tips to improve your immune system are sure to bring about a number of other health benefits.
Regular exercise is a cornerstone of physical health and one of the best ways to boost your immune system. Exercise, and physical wellness in general, has a wide variety of positive benefits for every bodily system. Because exercising promotes red blood cell production and improved circulation, scientists also deduce that white blood cells of the immune system are able to move more effectively through the body. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important to strengthen the immune system. Excess fat triggers inflammation, which reduces blood circulation along with a number of harmful effects on your body. Keeping a daily schedule that includes stretching, walking and basic calisthenics is one of the most important tips to improve your immune system.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Your eating habits have a strong influence on how well your immune system functions. As you age, a healthy diet is a crucial necessity in building a resilient immune system. For older adults, zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E are essential in an overall healthy diet. This means getting your fill of immune system booster foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Some tasty choices include:
- Bell peppers
- Beans and legumes
- Wild salmon
- Greek yogurt
Like all adults, older adults should restrict the consumption of sugars and saturated fats in their diet as well as minimize processed and red meats. But that doesn’t mean taking the joy out of eating. You can cook highly nutritious, delectable meals with relative ease. Try this menu from the National Institute on Aging. If you have diet restrictions, ask your physician about taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Stay Updated on Vaccinations
As age lowers your body’s capacity to respond to infections, your body likewise becomes less responsive to immunizations — making vaccines ever more important. Despite the reduction in vaccines’ efficiency, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults who get these vaccinations have lower rates of illness compared to those with no vaccination:
Seasonal Influenza vaccination
- The flu vaccine works by stimulating the body to produce antibodies against whatever strains of influenza were included in that year’s vaccine. Over the past several years, vaccine makers have developed vaccines that are designed to work better with an aging immune system. Be sure to ask your physician about the vaccine that’s right for you.
- Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) protects against serious pneumococcal disease, including meningitis and bloodstream infections.
- Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) protects against serious pneumococcal disease and pneumonia.
- Shingrix (Recombinant Zoster Vaccine) protects against shingles and the complications from the disease.
While stress is subjective and widely situational from person to person, it’s a part of life. Yet the link between chronic stress and a wide variety of ailments is clear. Stress causes your body to produce greater levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Over time, having too much cortisol in your blood can encourage inflammation and decrease your white blood cells that fight off infection. Your mental health is closely connected to your physical health — especially regarding your immune system. Stress reduction strategies not only give your mind a break; they also help boost your immune system. While quiet moments found in meditation, prayer, yoga and other spiritual practices can help, many people find it easier to reduce stress with a regular routine that includes active hobbies and interests. Even picking up the phone and visiting with friends and family can be a great stress reducer. It reminds you that you are loved and cared for, and that’s good for the heart too.
Here at Edgemere, we take every precaution to ensure our residents’ immune systems remain uncompromised. With a focus on comprehensive wellness, we make it easy to adopt these immune-boosting habits in every level of our continuum of care. In fact, living in a senior living community like Edgemere offers greater opportunity to adopt habits that will keep your immune system running at its maximum capacity when compared to at-home care. Plus, with the confidence-inspiring peace of mind that only Life Care can provide, you can rest easy knowing your health is always in good hands.