Your body’s immune system is a key defense mechanism in thwarting off germs, viruses, toxins, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and other harmful substances. However, as we age, our immune system becomes weaker.
The immune system is an incredible network of cells, tissues, and organs that unite to fight antigens (harmful substances that can enter the body and cause infections). Everyone varies when it comes to their immune system– some people seem to have a weak immune system, while others seem to be invincible to catching anything.
As we grow older, our immune systems develop antibodies to the infections we’ve developed in the past, and it helps to fight the antigens. Because of a senior’s exposure to germs over the course of their lifetime, they likely will experience fewer colds than their younger counterparts. However, that may be the only benefit for an aging person’s immune system.
The Soldiers Fighting your Battles in the Immune System
One of the organs responsible for the immune system, called the thymus, houses the immune cells (white blood cells and T cells). Here, they grow to maturity when we are young adults, and then the thymus begins shrinking.
Some T cells kill antigens entering the body directly, while others assist. Helper T cells are one of the most important cells when it comes to the immune system. They help activate B cells and cytotoxic T cells that kill infected targeted cells. As we age, the functioning of the T cells decreases, causing the immune system to become weaker and increasing our risk of getting sick.
The white blood cells are also affected. Over time, there aren’t as many white blood cells to counteract any new antigens entering the body. In addition, macrophages (the white blood cells that ingest the antigens) slow down as we age.
That’s not the only thing slowing down– the production of antibodies is also affected, preventing them from effectively attaching to an antigen. Those with diabetes have a higher risk of a weakened immune system.
How to Kick it Up a Notch
While it’s indefinite that your immune system will grow weaker with time, there are still a number of ways to help boost your immunity:
Get immunized/ vaccinated
Especially if you have a health condition like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, vaccinations are extremely important to staying healthy. In addition to flu vaccinations, there are also other suggested immunizations to prevent pneumonia, hepatitis, and tetanus. Consult with your physician about which ones you may need.
Some studies have shown that a moderate-effort exercise program increases the amount of T cells in your blood circulation. In addition, studies show that consistent exercisers had 23% fewer upper respiratory infections than their sedentary counterparts.
Get a good night’s rest
When you sleep, your immune system releases a protein called cytokines. These proteins, as well as other hormones and chemicals, are key to fighting certain diseases. If we don’t get enough sleep, we won’t be producing enough of these. Studies have shown that those who are sleep deprived have a weaker immune system than those with sufficient rest.
Eat a nutrient-dense diet
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is a great way to protect your health. Foods rich in Vitamin C (like red bell peppers, citrus fruits, papaya, kiwi, etc) are especially good as Vitamin C is an immunity booster. Other foods to consider are broccoli, shellfish, spinach, poultry, sunflower seeds, and yogurt with active cultures.
Meditate or find other ways to lower your stress levels
Some experts claim that stress is responsible for as much as 90% of all illnesses and diseases. If that’s the case, then finding a way to manage your stress may prove beneficial. Go for a walk, meditate, do yoga, take a warm bath, or listen to some tranquil music.
Keeping your hands clean is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent the spreading of germs and other bacteria. Wash your hands with warm water and soap often as many germs can be found on door handles, phones, handrails, remote controls, keyboards, etc.
Take multivitamins or supplements
Vitamins play a key role in protecting our body from harmful substances. Vitamins A, C, and E help boost the immune system. If you are unable to secure enough vitamins from your diet, consider consulting with your doctor to determine which ones you should be taking.
Drink plenty of water
Water helps carry oxygen to the cells in your body and prevents toxins from building up, making it an important factor when it comes to proper cell functioning. Experts recommend drinking at least eight cups of water a day.
Boosting your immune system doesn’t have to be complicated. At PrimRose Care, our team of professionals will ensure you receive the utmost quality care available. Our staff understands the aging process and the effects that it has, and they are prepared with the knowledge and skill set to help you live as healthy (and comfortably) as possible. Contact us today with any questions by calling 435-787-1369.