Helping Seniors Build Immunity

A human immune system is a fantastic machine. A robust immune system can protect the body against disease and damage from foreign bodies. It can identify threats and activate the body to fight off bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more. As we age, our immune system begins to weaken and allows more infections, diseases, and cancers to form. An aging immune system is weakened by infection and inflammation. For seniors over 65, some steps can be taken to strengthen and even reverse some of the signs of a weakened immune system.

Following any of these immune strengthening suggestions will not guarantee good health. It’s inevitable that as we age, we will get weaker. However, being aware and adopting even some habits will optimize your chances of staying healthier and more vital for a longer time. No matter how old you are, you can always do something to improve your overall wellness.

Stay Active

Exercise and activity help aging adults in so many ways. One of the significant benefits is that it keeps the overall weight down. The heavier a person, the more belly fat. Belly fat triggers inflammation, which weakens the immune system and increases your risks of diabetes and heart disease. Even minimal weight loss can have a positive effect on inflammation.

Avoid Too Much Sun Exposure

Here in South Florida, sunshine is a blessing. We’re able to be outside year-round comfortably. Fresh air and vitamin D benefit everyone, including boosting immunity. Sunscreen should always be worn, even during overcast days, as UV rays can still be intense.

Quit Smoking

If you or your loved one smokes, get help. Cessation of smoking will immediately have a positive impact. Cigarette smoke contains carcinogens that make their way into the body. Cigarettes cause inflammation inside the lungs that significantly impact immunity in the lungs and elsewhere. It kills antibodies that help your body fight infection. Quitting cigarettes is the single most powerful impact you can have on your body.

Eat a Well-balanced Diet

For seniors living independently or with family, a strong immune diet includes lean protein, low sodium, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Hydration is also essential. The more water intake, the better your body can rid itself of impurities. Consider adding probiotics to your diet. Probiotics are best absorbed in their natural state. For example, any fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, and yogurt all contain natural probiotics. If you’re a caregiver, your loved one likely has a special diet to follow. Keeping a copy of the diet in the kitchen and posted by a pantry or refrigerator will help everyone observe and advise on making the right choices. Always consult with a physician if anything is in question. If in doubt, think fresh, simple, and lean. There are many wonderful recipes and cookbooks created for aging well and maintaining strong immunity. The recipes are far from “boring” or “tasteless.” Adapting our diets can be fun and delicious. Here are just a few suggestions:

Sleep Well, Rest Well

Sleep and good rest are as essential as exercise. Sleep revitalizes and restores the body. Lack of sufficient rest puts unnecessary stress on the entire body – both physical and mental. Rest is needed to energize the body and the brain.

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Avoid excessive alcohol consumption — overindulging alcohol limits immunity-boosting nutrients in your body, and it decreases the ability of your white blood cells to fight viruses. It can increase your risk of infection.

On the other hand, red wine has been consumed for centuries. There are many scientific benefits to red wine. If you drink in moderation, red wine can reduce inflammation. It contains powerful antioxidants like resveratrol. Always check with your physician. He or she will tell you what your safe limit is based on your weight, body type, and medical history.

A healthy immune system can not only increase longevity, but it can also help aging adults live a better life. It’s all about a healthy balance and a healthy environment. At Miami Jewish Health, we’ve been committed to caring for aging adults for over 80 years. Learn more about living life better.

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