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Boosting Immunity in Older Adults

Mature woman drinking coffee and peeling mandarins while sitting on sofa

Your immune system protects you from harmful invaders that can make you sick. Infections are dangerous, especially when you are already at risk. Many older adults have weakened immune systems and are more prone to infections, disease, and inefficient wound healing. To safeguard yourself and boost your immunity, use the following practical lifestyle adjustments.

Prioritize Regular Healthcare

When you age, your lowered defenses can accelerate any existing conditions you may have. Keeping in regular contact with a healthcare team can mitigate any adverse effects. They can stay on top of your bloodwork and other symptoms to manage or prevent disease. 

Effective healthcare management is a necessity when looking to support your immune health. The best way to find a stellar healthcare team is to do your research. Look up reviews to make sure you are booking an appointment with a thorough, safe, and patient-centered doctor who will listen to your needs and values.

Someone with experience with an aging population can understand the nuances that come with a lowered immune system and be more inclined to help without judgment. 

Be Mindful of Medicine

Even if you only take medicine that your doctor prescribes, you should still be knowledgeable about the potential side effects. Certain medications, like immunosuppressants often used to stave off cancer and autoimmune disorders, can weaken your immune system even further. 

Take a good look at your used pill bottles and any new medications you are prescribed. You can consult your provider for details, look at the instructions that came with the medicine, and research online to find out more. 

In any case, be mindful of what the medicine is doing to your immune system. If it weakens it too much, you may have to take extra precautions when going out, like wearing gloves and masks. If you repurpose old pill bottles, make sure to wash them thoroughly to get rid of any residue that could contaminate new pills or food items you store inside of them. 

Work with your healthcare team to find holistic medicine that facilitates your overall well-being — including boosting your immune system. Sometimes, immune-suppressing medications are necessary. However, you can take steps to at least be aware of these effects and mitigate them with other medicines, supplements, behaviors, and natural remedies.

Eat Healthily

Healthy eating and disease are intrinsically intertwined. Providing your body with the proper nutrition, like boosting your good cholesterol, can prevent diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular issues. Your healthcare team can offer a diet plan that takes all of your health concerns into consideration. Consult them before making drastic changes. 

Nutrition and immunity go hand in hand. Vitamin C is often touted as the cure-all for immune-boosting, but the human body is more complex than that. A high-fiber diet, for instance, can facilitate a healthy gut microbiome. The gut is known to influence much of the immune activity in your body, so keeping it in tip-top shape is advised. 

When you age, you often lack certain nutrients. Make sure you take any supplements recommended by your physician or adjust your diet to make up for any deficiencies.

Exercise

Another topic to broach with your healthcare team is exercise. They may recommend a fitness plan that matches your specific goals and physical health. Moderate exercise in older adults has shown a positive impact on immunity, particularly against dangerous respiratory infections. It can also increase your ability to recoup after vaccination against common viruses like the flu. 

When you’re older, these infections can wreak havoc and lead to complications, like aspiration and pneumonia. Incorporating moderate physical activity into your daily routine can stave off these illnesses by increasing the number of neutrophils, or white blood cells, that are a vital part of your immune function.

 

If you’re aging in place, consider creating a gym in your garage or elsewhere in the house. It can be tough to leave the house and get exercise. With a gym equipped with a treadmill, rowing machine, and other exercise machines, you can get the light exercise you need no matter what the weather is like.

Get Enough Sleep

Inadequate shut-eye can make you sick, too. Certain immune-boosting proteins, called cytokines, are released during sleep. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you will experience a decrease in the production and release of these cytokines. These proteins are necessary to fight off inflammation and infection, and having a lower number of them can leave you more vulnerable to illness. 

The National Institute on Aging recommends that older adults get a good seven to nine hours of sleep each night. This is the typical amount required for adults to function properly. However, your older years can leave you more prone to sleep disturbances. Certain medications can cause insomnia or oversleeping, and chronic pain can keep you tossing and turning at night. Consult your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping, and your immune system will thank you.

Manage Stress

Stress can cause a lack of sleep, as well. What’s more, chronic stress can cause infections due to the repeated rise in cortisol. It affects your body’s ability to develop anti-inflammatory responses, which are critical in fighting off infection. 

If you’re experiencing constant stress, seek help from a mental health professional and take steps to lower stressors in your life. For example, try meditating, yoga, or aromatherapy for seniors. A holistic approach to enhancing your lifestyle will lower your stress levels inherently, allowing you to focus fully on your well-being and boosting your immune system naturally.


Written By

Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman writes about people, aging, wellness, and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.


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