We usually think of the colder months as the time when we need to worry about getting sick. While it’s true that cold and flu season does fall into autumn and winter, it’s important to think about your immune system health all year long. This is especially true for seniors since the ageing process can reduce the ability of our immune system to fight infection.
6 Immune System Boosters for Seniors
Since seniors are at a higher risk for getting sick with colds, the flu, and other types of illness, it’s extra important to make sure you take care of your immune system. Thankfully, there are a few easy lifestyle changes you can make that will boost your immune system and keep you healthy all year long.
Eat a balanced diet
The body needs the right nutrients to keep things running smoothly. When you eat a balanced diet that is full of healthy fruits, vegetables and is rich in protein, it’s fairly easy to make sure your body gets everything it needs. A good rule of thumb is to try to eat the rainbow – choose a variety of fruits and veggies of all colours and you’ll ensure you get a wide range of nutrients.
Get your shots
Most people don’t love needles and will try to avoid vaccines because of it. However, it’s extra important for seniors to make sure they keep up to date with a vaccination schedule. A flu shot is a must every year, since seniors are at higher risk of requiring hospitalization from the flu. It’s a good idea for friends and family to get the flu shot too, just in case.
You may also need a booster shot for tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis, the zoster vaccine to prevent shingles (extra important for those who have ever had chicken pox), and two pneumococcal vaccines: PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) and PPSV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine) to prevent pneumonia.
Get some exercise
Exercise is good for pretty much everyone. So it’s no surprise to hear that it can be great for your immune system too! Regular exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation and boost the production of immune cells. Any type of exercise is great for the body, from walks, bike rides, yoga, and other low-impact exercise classes. The more you move, the better, so try to fit in a bit of activity each day if you can.
Get a good night’s sleep
If you do get sick, the most common advice doctors give is to get some rest. So it makes sense that if you make sure you get enough rest each night, you could possibly prevent yourself from getting sick in the first place. Each night when we go to sleep, our bodies finally get to relax and repair. When you don’t get enough sleep, the body becomes stressed and your levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) become elevated, which in turn can damage your immune system function. If you get enough sleep (7-8 hours a night is recommended) your body will feel less stressed and will be better able to fight infections.
Keep stress at bay
If you feel stressed, your body isn’t able to run the way it should. As mentioned earlier, stress hormones like cortisol can prevent your immune system from functioning how it should. When you experience stress in your life, there are many great ways to reduce it. Many people feel calmer when they practice a regular hobby like knitting, working on puzzles, playing music, or dancing. Yoga, tai chi, and meditation practices are also excellent ways to reduce your stress levels.
Practice good hygiene
You hear this all the time during cold and flu season, but it’s good advice to follow all the time: wash your hands! When you make an effort to wash your hands regularly throughout the day, you dramatically reduce your chances of getting sick. It’s especially important to remember to wash your hands if you’ve been around someone else who is sick, after you blow your nose, after you use the toilet, and before you eat.