Getting older often affects the immune system, making older adults more susceptible to infections. However, following these immunity-boosting tips for seniors can help keep your immune system functioning correctly and reduce the risk of colds, flu and other common illnesses.
Your body needs adequate levels of essential nutrients to produce immune system cells and fight off infections. You've probably heard various "superfoods" touted as the solution to reduced immunity. However, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health cautions that you can't boost immunity by consuming specific foods. Instead, you should focus on a nutritious, balanced diet for a healthy immune system.
According to the school, the best way to eat for better immunity is to base your meals on vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains and lean protein. Many seniors find a Mediterranean-style diet provides the nutrition they need to fight infections, but you can adapt your meal plan to suit your preferences. One of the simplest ways to ensure a balanced diet is following the Healthy Eating Plate guidance, which recommends:
Another immune-boosting benefit of following a balanced diet plan for seniors is that it can help you maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight or obese can cause chronic inflammation and increase your risk of contracting respiratory infections such as flu.
There's also plenty of evidence to suggest that exercise improves immunity in seniors. A 2007 review into the immunological effects of exercise in older adults found that increased physical activity levels can promote the production of immune system cells and help you fight infections.
Interestingly, the review found that establishing a long-term exercise habit is better for boosting immunity than short-term bursts of activity. Generally, studies that required participants to exercise regularly for 6 months or longer produced the most benefits for the immune system.
Therefore, choosing a sustainable exercise program is essential to boosting your immunity as an older adult. You don't have to exercise intensively in a gym every day to achieve results — the best routine is one that fits your lifestyle and that you enjoy.
If conditions such as arthritis make high-intensity exercise uncomfortable, exploring the Frisco area on foot could be a great way to stay active while discovering exciting new places. Alternatively, you could consider starting a personalized wellness and exercise program or joining group activities in the Bethesda Gardens Frisco assisted living community.
Getting older can make it harder to get enough sleep, especially for women. Aging can affect the production of sleep-promoting hormones, making it more challenging to fall asleep and stay asleep. Furthermore, sleep deprivation can alter your immune function and cause chronic inflammation.
Therefore, prioritizing getting enough sleep can help your immune system function more effectively. It's a good idea to seek support from your doctor or the health care team at Bethesda Gardens Frisco if you think you may have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia or sleep apnea. However, you could also use the following sleep hygiene tips for seniors to help you get the 7-9 hours of sleep per night recommended by the National Institute on Aging:
Vaccination against health conditions that commonly affect seniors can help improve your immunity and reduce the risk of developing certain infections. For example, around 33% of American adults experience shingles at some point in their lives, and your risk increases with age. Furthermore, you're more likely to require hospitalization if you catch influenza at age 65 or older.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following vaccines for seniors:
You may benefit from additional vaccines if you have certain health conditions, and doctors sometimes recommend the hepatitis B vaccine even if you don't have a preexisting illness. For example, you may need a hepatitis A and MMR vaccine if you have chronic liver disease. Your health care provider can advise you on which vaccines you need, taking your health status into consideration.
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