No matter your age, it’s important to take care of your body and prevent illness.
But if you’re 65 or older, something as simple as the flu or common cold can progress and lead to complications. This includes secondary infections like pneumonia, bronchitis, an ear infection, or a sinus infection. If you have a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes, a respiratory illness can make these worse.
But it doesn’t mean that as you get older, you get sicker and that’s why it’s important to make healthy choices to strengthen your immune system and reduce the likelihood of illness.
Here are 8 steps to keep you healthy throughout the year
1. Get active
This will always be first on any list. Physical activity is an immune system booster. The more you move, the more your body is able to fight infections.
But the activity you partake in doesn’t have to be strenuous. Low impact exercises are also effective, too.
You might consider biking, walking, swimming, or low-impact aerobics. If you’re able to, engage in moderate-intensity exercise for about 20 to 30 minutes a day to reach the recommended total of 150 minutes a week, trusted Source. Also, strengthen your muscles by lifting weights or doing yoga.
You can change your exercise cycle from time to time to find what feels best for you.
2. Eat a healthy diet
Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean meats also give your immune system a boost and protect against harmful viruses and bacteria that cause illnesses. Fruits and vegetables are a good source of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your cells from damage and keep your body healthy.
You should also limit your consumption of sugary and fatty foods, which can trigger inflammation in the body and lower your immune system.
In addition, limit your intake of alcohol. Ask your doctor about safe amounts of alcohol to drink per day or week.
3. Learn how to manage stress
Chronic stress increases your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can disrupt different functions in your body, including your immune system.
To reduce stress, increase physical activity, get plenty of sleep, set reasonable expectations for yourself, take a walk and explore relaxing, enjoyable activities.
4. Get plenty of rest
Not only can sleep reduce your stress level, but sleep is how your body repairs itself. For this reason, getting an adequate amount of sleep can result in a stronger immune system, making it easier for your body to fight off viruses.
Sleep is also important as you get older because it can improve memory and concentration. Aim for at least seven and a half to nine hours of sleep per night.
If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor to find the underlying cause. Causes of insomnia can include inactivity during the day and too much caffeine. Or it can be a sign of a medical condition like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.
5. Schedule annual physicals
Scheduling a yearly checkup can do you a world of good.. Always speak with your doctor if you have concerns about your health.
Conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure can go undetected. Regular physical examinations will enable your doctor to diagnose any problems early. Getting early treatment may prevent long-term complications.
Also, if you have any cold or flu symptoms, see your doctor immediately. The flu virus can lead to complications in adults over the age of 65. The immune system weakens with age, making it harder to fight the virus.
If you see a doctor within the first 48 hours of flu symptoms, they can prescribe an antiviral to reduce the severity and length of symptoms.
6. Avoid contact with people who are sick
Another way to protect yourself year-round is to avoid being close to people who are sick. This is easier said than done. But if there’s a flu outbreak in your area, limit contact with people who aren’t feeling well and avoid crowded areas until conditions improve.
If you must go out, protect yourself by wearing a face mask. If you’re caring for someone with the flu, wear a face mask and gloves, and wash your hands frequently.
7. Take supplements
As we age, our nutritional needs change, meaning that a diet that was appropriate in our younger years may no longer provide us with the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients to support our changing bodies.
Advancing age usually brings a general slowing down of activity, as lean muscle gradually gives way to increased body fat, which causes the base metabolic rate to become lower. In effect, this means that an older person requires less food than a younger person, but that doesn’t mean compromising on quality.
But before taking a supplement, it is important to always ask your doctor if it’s safe, especially if you’re taking a prescription medication. Some supplements they may recommend include calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B6, or vitamin B12.
Always take supplements or multivitamins as instructed to boost your immune system.