The immune system serves as the body’s defense mechanism against biological threats—bacteria, viruses, and toxins.
It has been protecting your body since the day you were born; however, it also has its limits as you reach the prime ages of 60 and above.
Notice how you cannot run as fast as you used to during your 20s? That’s how it is with your immunity as well—it tends to decline in performance as you age. Some of the notable changes that take place in the immune system include:
- It has a slower response when foreign invaders (germs) attack the body.
- Immune cell production begins lagging, thus healing the body at a slower pace.
- It does not detect diseases and cell anomalies as fast as they used to.
- Its weakened state invites the development of certain conditions, such as an autoimmune disorder.
This is also the reason why older adults are more prone to catch coronavirus disease than young ones.
With COVID-19 still at large, improving senior health should be the primary focus today.
So, here are some proven strategies to boost senior’s immune systems and stay at the top of their game during the pandemic.
1. Fill Your Plate With Nutritious Foods
Eating healthy and well-balanced meals is always a good start in improving your immune system.
As your body ages, your eating habits should change as well. It would be good to stick to nutrient-dense foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fibers, and antioxidants. This means that your plate should consist of a diverse set of foods, such as:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Low-fat dairy
- Lean protein
- Beans and lentils
- Oats and bran
It is best if you only consume homemade meals instead of processed ones. But if you ever consider buying pre-packed edibles, then make sure to check the label first. Choose those with no additives, non-fat, low-sodium, and low-sugar content.
2. Get Active
A healthy diet would be useless if it is not paired with regular exercise. Seniors may have a hard time doing strenuous activities, but that does not mean you should forgo it altogether.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggested that older adults need at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. It can range from simple brisk walking and mild jogging to fast dancing and cycling.
If you have been inactive for a while, do not overexert yourself by doing vigorous activities. Take it slow by building a routine that is in tune with your current fitness level.
Begin with low-impact exercises and always start with warm-ups and cool-downs after. After a week or two of doing a routine, you’ll slowly start to feel independent, strong, and healthy again.
3. Minimize Stress
If you think older adults have nothing to stress about, then you are wrong. Studies have shown that seniors experience stress as much as the younger generation does.
This is especially true for older adults in assisted living facilities who are far away from their loved ones. They often feel isolated and lonely, causing stress to build-up without even realizing it.
Reducing stress is crucial if you want to strengthen your immune system. This is because senior health also depends on an individual’s state of mind.
Chronic stress weakens and tamps down your immunity. Moreover, it can give rise to chronic disorders such as heart disease, hypertension, and autoimmunity.
So, start healing your mental well-being by doing stress-reducing activities like:
- Diet and exercise
- Mindfulness techniques
- Focusing on a hobby
- Staying connected with loved ones
- Doing what you love
4. Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep has never been a good habit, especially now that you are on the older side.
Sleep plays a crucial role in making sure that your body systems function well. It is during your sleep that the body does most of its essential work, such as:
- Releasing of different hormones to repair your body.
- Processing of information to create long-term memories.
- Flushing out of harmful proteins in between brain cells.
- Relaxing the muscles to give them rest
- Decreasing the level of stress hormones.
All of these cleansing activities, one way or another, helps keep your body healthy and ready for its next battle.
More importantly, during sleep, your body produces more chemicals called cytokines—proteins that protect the body from infection and inflammation.
More cytokines mean a fortified and strong immune response.
So next time, try sticking to a regular schedule of snooze time to achieve eight or nine hours of sleep.
Stocking up on 20-minute siestas during the afternoons can also do wonders for your physical and mental well-being.
5. Quit Unhealthy Behaviors
Doing the best practices to boost your immune system will be counterproductive if you keep on doing vices that destroy your health.
Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, weakens your immune system. They contain chemicals that harm the body, making it more difficult to ward off and fight infections.
Moreover, these toxic chemicals increase your likelihood of developing other chronic illnesses like:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Respiratory problems
To enhance your immunity, be proactive, and take steps to kick out these destructive vices. You can take it one step at a time by limiting alcohol intake or sticking to nicotine patches.
Better yet, seek professional help to kickstart your way to detoxification and towards quality senior health.
6. Stay Connected With Friends and Family
Many studies already showed a strong link between your mental and physical aspects. It is often referred to as the body-mind connection.
So, it is high time to start taking care of your mental and emotional health to strengthen your physical health.
One such way to do that is to stay connected to loved ones. Family and friends are a huge part of your existence. They make life more bearable and worth living. So, make it a point to bond with them every now and then.
Plan family gatherings, afternoon tea with friends, or just catch up on Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime.