7 Ways Seniors Boost Their Immune System

loved ones sharing a meal together

7 Ways to Help Seniors Boost Their Immune System

loved ones sharing a meal together

February 25, 2021 | Health, Lifestyle

What’s your best defense to fight off infections and illness?

 A strong immune system! It’s constantly battling pathogens to keep the rest of your body safe. So wouldn’t it be a good idea to keep it as strong as possible? Unfortunately, as you age, your immune system does start to weaken.

The good news is that a healthy lifestyle can prevent that weakening! Along with healthy living strategies, you can improve immune health to better prevent and fight disease. Discover the 7 vital immune boosters for seniors and how they can strengthen their immune system.

Wash your hands
Washing your hands thoroughly and often can help prevent the spread of disease-causing germs from one person to another. The proper technique for washing your hands involves lathering your hands with soap and then scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. Do this before rinsing with water. When should you wash your hands? Well, it should be all the time. But here are the very important times to wash your hands.

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • After using the toilet
  • Before and after caring for someone who is ill
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
elderly washing hands

Maintain a healthy diet
This is essential to a strong immune system. As you age, your nutritional needs and eating habits may change for a variety of reasons. But in addition to a weakened immune system, poor nutrition or malnutrition can also affect heart health, lead to type 2 diabetes, and weaken bones and muscles. A well-balanced diet includes a variety of vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, and a variety of protein foods. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends including foods rich in the following nutrients to strengthen immune system health. 

  • Protein, found in seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, and peas
  • Vitamin A, found in sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and spinach
  • Vitamin C, found in citrus foods, strawberries, and certain cereals
  • Vitamin E, found in almonds, hazelnuts, and peanut butter
  • Zinc, found lean meats, poultry, milk, whole grain products, and beans

Spend time outdoors
Vitamin D also helps strengthen the immune system. Spending additional time outdoors allows your body to naturally convert vitamin D from sun exposure. The amount of sun exposure to get the vitamin D you need will depend on your skin tone. Some people need as little as 15 minutes, whereas others may need up to two hours. However, If your vitamin D level is super low, your doctor may prescribe supplements or recommend an over-the-counter multivitamin.

Lower your stress level
Chronic stress can affect your immune system, decreasing its effectiveness. Short-term stress doesn’t harm the body, however chronic stress lowers your immune system response, making you susceptible to viruses and illnesses. To help reduce your stress level, set limitations and don’t be afraid to say no. Engage in activities that you find enjoyable and relaxing, such as reading or gardening.

elderly sleeping

Get plenty of sleep
Sleep deprivation also reduces the effectiveness of the immune system. Sleep becomes more important with age because it also helps improve brain function, concentration, and memory. Aim for at least seven and a half to nine hours of sleep per night. To improve the quality of your sleep, make sure your room is dark, quiet, and cool. Keep a regular bedtime routine and limit daytime naps to no more than 45 minutes. Don’t consume caffeine late in the day and don’t drink water and other beverages one and a half hours before bedtime.

Connect with others
Social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus outbreak do not have to keep you from feeling close to the ones you love. Senior isolation may lead to feelings of loneliness and depression, which can compromise immune health. It’s important to find creative ways to stay connected. Call, text, or use video technology, such as FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom to stay in touch while ensuring the safety of you and your loved one.

Quit Smoking and Limit Drinking
The chemicals in cigarettes are known to damage lung tissue and increase the risk for cancer. But they can also cause respiratory illnesses such as the flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia. To improve your immune system function, take steps to kick a cigarette habit. Use smoking cessation aids such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum. You can also talk to your doctor about medications to reduce cravings for cigarettes.

Excessive alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infections. Healthy older adults should limit alcoholic beverages to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, according to the CDC.

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