No matter how old you are, taking care of yourself is crucial. However, if you’re 65 or older, simple illnesses like the common cold or flu can take a toll on your body – leading to secondary infections like bronchitis, pneumonia, or a sinus infection.
And, if you already have a chronic illness like diabetes or asthma, a respiratory infection can worsen your condition. That’s why it’s imperative for seniors to keep their immune systems healthy and lessen the chances of serious illness.
Here are seven tips to keep your immune system strong in your golden years.
1. Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential. A good night’s rest reduces your stress levels and gives your body a chance to heal and repair itself. Getting enough sleep also helps your immune system fight off viruses and infections.
Getting enough sleep becomes even more critical as you age because it improves cognitive functions like concentration and memory. You should get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
If you experience insomnia and find it difficult to fall and stay asleep, speak to your health provider to determine the cause. Common reasons people have trouble sleeping include too much caffeine or being inactive during the day. Health conditions like chronic pain, restless syndrome, and sleep apnea also make it hard to get enough sleep.
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2. Stay Active
Physical activity is known to boost the immune system – the more active you are, the better your body can fight off infections. Regular exercise can also help you avoid chronic health conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Your daily exercise regime doesn’t have to be strenuous – low-impact exercise is beneficial, too. To stay fit, consider doing low-impact activities like swimming, walking, biking, and aerobics for 20 to 30 minutes daily. If you want to strengthen your muscles, consider weightlifting, resistance training, Pilates, and yoga.
3. Go Outside
Studies show that spending time outdoors can dramatically improve your mental and physical health.
Just a few minutes of sun exposure every day can give you a much-needed dose of vitamin D, which improves cognitive function, strengthens bones, and boosts immunity. Studies have also revealed that spending time outside can also relieve stress and lift mood – especially when done with exercise.
You can do many activities to spend time outdoors – such as riding a bike, taking a walk, and sitting outside to bird watch or read.
4. Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet plays a massive role in your overall mental and physical health. Studies show that diets with high amounts of processed foods and sugar can negatively affect your mental health, and the physical impact is no different. An unhealthy diet can also cause chronic diseases and many other health issues.
On the other hand, eating a well-balanced and healthy diet boosts energy levels, lowers the risk of disease, boosts immunity, and improves physical and mental health.
To reap the benefits of a healthy diet, eat healthy and well-balanced meals comprising nutritious vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and lean protein. Because dehydration is a common issue in seniors, you should drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
5. Wash Your Hands Often
Frequently washing your hands is an excellent way to avoid illnesses. Because viruses can survive on surfaces for 24 hours, you can get ill just by touching a virus-contaminated surface and then touching your face.
To wash your hands properly, use hot soapy water and scrub your hands and forearms for at least 20 seconds. When you cannot get to a sink to wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to disinfect your hands. Disinfecting the surfaces in your home will also kill any viruses and bacteria.
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6. Manage Your Stress
Chronic stress increases your levels of cortisol – a stress hormone produced by your adrenal glands. When your body is flooded with cortisol, bodily functions like your immune system can be disrupted.
Increasing physical activity, setting reasonable expectations for yourself, getting enough sleep, and participating in relaxing activities will help you manage your stress levels.
7. Prevent Infections
To stay healthy and virus-free throughout the year, consider getting annual vaccinations. If you’re older than 65, speak to a healthcare professional to see if you can get an adjuvant or high-dose flu vaccine.
In the U.S., flu season starts in October and ends in May – so be sure to get your vaccination at least two weeks before flu season begins because it can take up to two weeks to become effective. The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of getting the flu by 40 to 60 percent if the strains in the vaccine are the same as the circulating strains.
Because the flu virus mutates yearly, you should get your flu vaccine annually. You can also get pneumococcal vaccines to protect you against meningitis and pneumonia, so ask your healthcare provider about them.