The immune system is used to help protect your body from foreign or harmful substances such as bacteria, viruses, toxins, cancer cells, and blood from other people. The immune system makes cells and antibodies that destroy these harmful intruders.
The immune system obviously provides an important function in order for the body to remain healthy. Unfortunately, the immune system begins to weaken as we age causing it to not work as well as it once did. In fact, there are certain, specific changes that occur in the immune system.
Seniors And The Immune System
As mentioned before, as we age, our immune systems begin to weaken. Specifically, the immune system can become slower to respond. This increases your risk of getting sick. Moreover, flu shots or other vaccines may not work as well to protect you for as long as expected. Your body will heal more slowly as there are fewer immune cells in the body to bring about healing.
One example of a reduction in immune system response is vaccines. Studies of influenza vaccines have shown that vaccines are less effective for people over the age of 65, the vaccine is less effective compared to children over the age of two. However, it should be noted that despite this, vaccines can be effective for lowering rates of sickness and death in older people compared to no vaccine.
Boosting The Immune System
Despite the fact that the immune system gets worse with age, there are a number of ways that we can decrease the risks of immune system aging and boost its ability to work properly.
The aim for stimulating the immune system is not necessarily to increase life span but rather to increase health span, defined as years of healthy living.
Exercise is one of the best methods to improve immune system ability. It will also help reduce your risk of developing heart disease and keep your bones strong and healthy. There is evidence that moderate exercise has been shown to bolster the function of certain parts of the immune system, such as natural killer cells, thereby possibly decreasing the incidence of some infections.
There are several theories as to why exercise improves immune functioning. Some of these theories include:
- Physical activity can help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, this can help to reduce your chances of getting a cold, flu, or other illness
- Exercise can help improve white blood cells function, causing them to circulate more rapidly and detect illnesses earlier than before.
- Exercise leads to a brief rise in body temperature during and after exercise that may work to prevent bacteria from growing.
Studies have shown that people who follow a moderately energetic lifestyle and exercise program. Some moderate forms of exercise include activities such as:
- Biking a few times a week
- Taking a 20- to 30-minute walk every day
- Going to the gym every other day
- Playing golf
Exercise holds a number of benefits that don’t just impact the immune system. It can help to make you healthier, more energetic, give you more self-confidence, and more.
Along with exercise, there are a number of foods that you can incorporate in your diet that can help to boost the immune system and keep your body healthy as you age. Magnesium is one mineral that is essential for supporting a healthy immune system. Some of the best sources of magnesium include:
- Fruits and vegetables like bananas, apricots, and avocados
- Peas and beans
- Soy products like soy flour or tofu
- Whole grains
Other vitamins and minerals that can help to support and boost the immune system include Vitamin B, Selenium, and Zinc. Be sure that you are getting your daily requirements for these vitamins.
Diet is especially important for the elderly as there appears to be a connection between nutrition and immunity in seniors. Something called micro-nutrient malnutrition is a condition in which a person is deficient in some essential vitamins and trace minerals, this condition can be surprisingly common in affluent countries and among the elderly. If the problem becomes severe, it is recommended that you discuss your diet with a physician that is well-versed in geriatric nutrition.
Sleep is one body function that can often be overlooked when it comes to your physical and mental health. According to the Mayo Clinic, lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep or enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to some type of virus, such as the common cold virus.
During sleep, the immune system releases proteins called cytokines which can help to promote sleep. These proteins can also important for dealing with things like infection or inflammation. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of cytokines.
Long-term lack of sleep can lead to many problems such as the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It is recommended that adults get seven to eight hours of good sleep each night.
The immune system provides many vital functions for keeping your body healthy and safe. It works to drive infections and sicknesses out and away from the body. Unfortunately, as we age, our immunity functions grow weaker and weaker. However, there are a few methods that you can take to improve and strengthen your immune system. Exercise, getting proper sleep, and eating a nutritious diet can all help to improve your immunity.
Taking care of the immune system should be a top priority, however, for some, it can be too little too late. There are many senior citizens who have lost their ability to function properly and need help with day-to-day tasks. Luckily, there are caregivers and assisted living facilities available to help people like this. Landmark Senior Living is one facility that can provide your loved one with the care that they require. If you are interested in learning more about assisted living facilities in Beverly, please visit our website and schedule a complimentary walkthrough.