Every winter, flu season comes around, and we can find ourselves fighting off a revolving door of sickness. Now with COVID-19 being thrown into the mix, strengthening our immune system is more important than ever. As older adults, we are more likely to catch whatever is going around, be sick longer, and have more severe symptoms than younger ones. Taking these tips to improve your immune system will help you get through this winter season healthier than ever before.
Exercise is a natural stimulant for our immune system. Through exercise, we begin to feel healthier overall, and our stress levels start to drop. This results in better immune function. Striving to get around 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or about 30 minutes a day for five days, is ideal. As older adults, it's especially important to ensure that we remain moving and active, both for our physical well-being and our immune system. Getting out daily for a quick walk, lifting weights, or anything to keep your body moving will make you feel better and keep you healthier year-round.
Sleep is one of the most important things for our bodies. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Getting less than this increases your chance of getting sick and makes fighting off any illness take longer. During sleep, our body releases proteins that help to fight off infection and inflammation within our system. As we age, sleep can become more challenging, and maintaining a healthy sleep pattern is especially important. Try to set a specific time to go to bed every night to help regulate your sleep patterns. Before bed, give yourself some time to relax so that you can sleep better through the night.
Learn more about sleep with these additional articles!:
- 10 Tips for a Better Night's Sleep
- What are the Best Sleeping Positions for Older Adults?
- 5 Benefits of a Full Night's Sleep for Older Adults
- 8 Reasons You're Not Getting Your Best Sleep
3. Quit Smoking
As difficult as it is, quitting smoking can be one of the best things for your immune system. Statistically speaking, smokers are more likely to get sick and stay stick longer than non-smokers. This trend increases as we age. Nicotine suppresses our immune system, increases inflammation, and damages our lung tissue, making us more vulnerable to illnesses.
Eating healthy is always important, but as older adults trying to increase our immune system, what we eat is even more important. Loading up on lots of fruits and vegetables gives our bodies the building blocks needed to stay healthy and fight off disease.
- Leafy greens (Spinach, Cabbage, and Kale)
- Cruciferous vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Brussels Sprouts)
- Citrus fruits (Grapefruit, Orange, and Tangerines)
- Berries (Strawberries, Blueberries, and Blackberries)
Remaining hydrated as older adults is critical for keeping our immune systems healthy. After all, we are mostly composed of water, so it only makes sense that we need to replenish frequently. Try setting a goal of drinking 11 cups of water per day for women and 15 cups per day for men. Special bottles are available online that can help you track your water intake every day to make sure you are getting enough. Fruits and vegetables can also help increase your hydration without having to drink additional water.
With covid and flu season making their rounds, keeping the things around us clean is necessary. Ensure that you sanitize surfaces, wash your hands frequently, and wear a mask when in public. These things seem simple but go a long way in helping to protect us from ever encountering the things that can make us sick. By eliminating the source of what makes us sick, your immune system gets a break and has time to build back up.
Stress has one of the most significant impacts on our overall health, including the health of our immune system. We live in very stressful times, and it is essential to decrease and manage our stress levels. Those may sound very similar, but there's a major distinction between the two. Not allowing ourselves to get into situations that we know will cause stress instead of handling the stress we can't avoid. We can't always avoid stress, so often we have to learn to manage it. Things we can do to manage stress are exercising, interacting with loved ones or friends, relaxing with a good book, or taking a warm bath.
As older adults keeping ourselves healthy is essential not only for us but for our families and friends. By taking some simple steps to improve and strengthen our immune systems, we can make sure that we get to spend this winter feeling healthy, doing the things we enjoy, and spending time with those we love.