Are you over age 65? If so, then this post is for you!
Flu season lasts eight months in the US. However, the virus doesn’t discriminate – it affects people from all age groups every year. Symptoms of the flu can include a runny nose, chills, headache, coughing, body pain, and fever. These symptoms can vary in severity from mild to horrible, and they usually last between 1 to 2 weeks.
But for some folks, the flu won’t seem to cause any real problems at all. However, this isn’t usually the case for people over age 65 – they tend to be affected the most by the flu. There’s also COVID-19 to consider as well, so boosting your immunity as a senior should be a top priority.
If you’re above age 65, then here’s what you need to know to boost your immune system as well as avoid the flu, COVID-19, and any of their complications.
You’ll want to get both your annual flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccination as well.
The annual flu shot reduces your chances of getting infected with the flu by 40-60%.
However, it takes as long as 2 weeks before taking full effect. The vaccine does its work by stimulating your immune system to produce antibodies, which serve the purpose of protecting you from the infection.
Did you also know that there are different kinds of vaccines for the flu? Yes, and some of the varieties are available to every single age group.
However, two types of flu vaccines are made specifically for seniors: Fluzone and Fluad. These vaccines will boost your immune system against the flu more than the standard flu shot.
The flu virus adapts and changes every year, which is why it’s essential to get vaccinated against it every year.
After getting the flu vaccine, you should also discuss with your doctor pneumococcal vaccines – these will protect you against meningitis and pneumonia.
Eating healthy is a great way to improve your immune response and give yourself the ability to stave off any viruses. A diet full of nutrients is exactly what you need. A diet that includes plenty of fruits and veggies will help to do this for you naturally. After all, they contain antioxidants and vitamins, which are both cornerstones of good health.
A necessary component of good health is reducing the amount of sugar, processed foods, and fats that you consume and opting for leaner meats. Suppose you aren’t getting enough nutrients and vitamins from what you eat. In that case, you can consult with your doctor to see if they suggest taking multivitamins or other supplements instead.
Pushing yourself beyond certain limits can get harder as you get older. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should quit exercising entirely. Regular exercise will boost your immune system and keep your body healthy enough to fight off viruses and infections.
Try to get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise done, 3 days per week. These 30 minutes could include biking, swimming, walking, yoga, as well as any other kind of low-impact workout.
Exercise will also boost your blood circulation as well as provide an anti-inflammatory benefit to your body.
Reduce Your Stress Levels
Constant stress will make your immune response worse. When you’re stressed, your body produces more cortisol. This hormone allows your body to cope with stressful conditions. However, it also halts any bodily functions that aren’t necessary for a fight-or-flight scenario.
Dealing with stress in the short term is ok and doesn’t hurt your body. But with that being said, long-term stress or chronic stress will absolutely harm your immune system, causing you to be more vulnerable to illnesses and viruses.
When trying to lower your levels of stress, put some limitations in place for yourself, and don’t ever be ashamed to say no. Only do things that you enjoy and that relax you, like gardening or reading a good book.
Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep can also reduce how effective your immune system is in combating viruses and illnesses. Sleep becomes even more important the older you get since it improves brain functioning, memory, and concentration. If a senior doesn’t sleep enough hours, they’re also more likely to have falling accidents.
So, try to get at least 7-9.5 hours of sleep each night. To make your sleeping experience better, try to keep your room cool, dark, and quiet. Stick with the same bedtime habits and limit your daily naps to no longer than forty-five minutes. Don’t drink caffeine later in the day either, and don’t drink anything 1.5 hours before you go to bed.
Keep Your Weight Healthy
If you’ve put on too much weight, you can shed those excess pounds by doing more physical activities and changing up your diet; this is essential because being overweight will negatively affect your immune response.
Physical activity combined with healthy eating can keep inflammation down and boost your immune response.
It’s a known fact that the chemicals in cigarettes can damage your lungs’ tissue and increase cancer risk. Smoking can also create respiratory problems that include pneumonia, bronchitis, and the flu.
To boost your immune response, you should focus on kicking the smoking habit. Smoking cessation aids that can help with this are nicotine gum and nicotine patches. Your doctor might also have suggestions for medicines to reduce cigarette cravings.
Spend More Time Outside
You can get vitamin D from being outside, and it’s a big help for strengthening your immune system.
Suppose your levels of vitamin D are too low. In that case, your doctor can prescribe you supplements or suggest you an OTC supplement.
You can always choose to spend more time outside, and this will let you get vitamin D in your body naturally from the sun. How much vitamin D can be obtained from sun exposure depends on your skin tone. Some folks will only need 15 minutes, and others will need as much as 2 hours. But remember not to go outside if it’s too hot or you’ll risk getting a sunburn.
Choosing to become a part of the senior living community in Rancho Mirage is also an excellent idea for keeping your immune system strong. Contact us for more information!