Natural immunity seems to wane with the aging process. Most people accept this as inevitable. However, there are certain lifestyle habits that promote a healthier immune system for seniors. Here are some tips for seniors to optimize your immunity. These habits might just help your body fight diseases like influenza and the new coronavirus.
I am a huge proponent of hand washing. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and do it often. It’s not even necessary to use antibacterial soap. (They didn’t have it in the 1870’s, when hand washing became a regular practice before surgery.) Any kind of soap with water works when you wash hands for at least 20 seconds
Be aware of what you’re touching with your hands. Door handles, stairway banisters, and shopping carts are constantly touched by others. Avoid touching these surfaces as much as you can when you’re running errands or going to appointments.
Avoid putting your hands around your face. That means eyes, nose, and mouth areas. If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, use hand sanitizer. Be sure it contains at least 60% alcohol content.
Your cells can’t fight off infection as well when you’re dehydrated, so get lots of fluids into your body daily. With age, the thirst mechanism is not as keen. So it’s important to be conscious of how much you are drinking and drink plenty of fluids. I use a stainless steel water bottle to keep track of how much water I’m drinking.
But remember, fluid intake doesn’t have to be all water. Soups, tea, fruit juices, and smoothies all count, and watermelon is a great way to get extra water into your body. Any type of fluid is beneficial to the body, although stay away from sugar-sweetened fluids. Coffee is ok to drink but since it acts as a diuretic, it actually moves more fluids from the body. Drink one cup of extra fluids for every cup of coffee you drink.
Seniors often lose their appetite and sense of taste. If you’re losing the edge on your palate, it’s even more important than ever to choose healthy foods! Make each meal count.
Choose a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to eat at each meal. This helps ensure that you get all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Taking a multivitamin would be another way to help you get the ABCDE vitamins.
Another great way to help your immune system is to cut out refined sugar and ultra-processed foods. Keep greasy and fried foods to a minimum too.
Instead, choose to eat lots of anti-inflammatory foods. Include more mushrooms, berries, and grapes in your diet. Eat more salmon and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Also, don’t forget the anti-inflammatory benefits of green tea. Spice up your recipes with ginger, raw garlic, and turmeric.
Research has proven that exercise helps your immune system. But don’t start training for a marathon without first checking with your doctor. This is especially important if you’ve not been very active for a while.
Many low impact activities will help you stay active. Take a walk in your neighborhood or in an indoor mall every day. Climb stairs instead of taking the elevator. Or take up tai chi or qigong as a new exercise routine. They’re all good ways to keep active and help optimize your immunity.
If you can walk outside or do your tai chi outdoors, you’ll also get an added benefit by boosting your vitamin D level. Besides other health benefits, Vitamin D supports your immune system. You can also take this in the form of a supplement if your doctor tells you your Vitamin D levels are low.
Many seniors complain they have trouble sleeping at night. Poor sleep is a set-up for poor immunity. Practice good sleep habits to get enough sleep and restore your natural immunity.
Turn off electronics an hour before bed. Go through the same nighttime ritual to create a habit that tells your body you’re winding down for sleep. Read a book or meditate before bedtime. Write in a journal if that helps you wind down.
Many people drink chamomile tea to relax before bedtime. Be aware, drinking a lot of fluids at bedtime means more trips to the bathroom and sleep interruption, too.
Make sure your room environment is favorable for a good night’s sleep. Set your thermostat at an optimal temperature for inducing sleep. Have eye shades and earplugs if you need them to rest peacefully.
No one wants to be sick, especially if influenza and coronavirus is present in the community. These simple lifestyle changes can help seniors optimize their natural immunity advantage. What changes can you see yourself making right away? Let me know in the comments below.
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