Healthy-living strategies are something to practice throughout our lives. But they become more significant as we age. Harvard Medical School describes how the aging process reduces the immune system response. So the older we get, the more susceptible we become to infections, inflammatory diseases and cancer. In fact, the leading causes of death for people over age 65 across the world are respiratory infections, influenza and pneumonia.
Boosting Seniors’ Immune Systems
The following tips can help keep seniors’ immune systems going strong. They can also help seniors who do catch a cold or other minor illness recover faster and prevent a more serious health issue.
1. Get vaccinated. Flu vaccines have shown to be effective for around one-quarter of older adults. And seniors who get the flu vaccine have significantly lower rates of sickness and death.
2. Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. Older people tend to eat less and have less variety in their diets. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and zinc are essential to good health. So is maintaining a low-sugar, low-fat diet that incorporates whole grains and lean proteins.
3. Exercise. Regular physical activity promotes circulation, heart health, and relaxes the body and mind. Walks, bike rides, yoga classes and other forms of exercise help boost seniors’ immune system performance and ward off infections.
4. Reduce stress. Stress has been linked to a number of illnesses, including stomach problems and heart disease. Whether it’s social stress, isolation or another form, stress can suppress seniors’ immune system, making them more susceptible to viruses. 5. Sleep. A natural immune system booster, sleep helps us respond better to stress and inflammation. It’s also shown to improve our response to the flu vaccine.
6. Wash hands. Washing hands regularly scrubs away germs. And covering sneezes and coughs helps prevent diseases from spreading.
7. Stay positive. A healthy outlook on life boosts endorphins, which make us feel good. Seniors who keep up with activities and hobbies that make them happy or challenge them in an enjoyable way have a better chance of staying positive and healthy.
8. Try some superfoods. Foods like kale, broccoli, avocados, certain mushrooms, berries and others have shown to improve seniors’ immune system performance. Somesuperfoods even boost cognitive function and help fight Alzheimer’s disease.
9. Consider multivitamin or herbal supplements. An option for increasing nutrients and fighting infections, seniors should talk to their doctors first before adding multivitamins or herbs, such as echinacea, ginseng or probiotics, to their regimen.
10. Stay hydrated. Seniors tend to sense thirst less than younger people. But they need at least eight or nine glasses of fluid a day to keep mucous membranes moist, which lowers the chances of flu or colds. Water, coffee, tea and soup all count.
Illness isn’t inevitable for the elderly. Good health habits lend to keeping seniors happy and active so they can enjoy the most out of life.