Cold and flu season is upon us, and while the exact number of deaths each year from seasonal flu is not known, we do know it’s a serious illness that lands numerous amounts of people in the hospital in the United States. Seasonal influenza can lead to a variety of other complications, like pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure.
In the elderly, most deaths from the seasonal flu are associated with the secondary complications that come from it, like bacterial pneumonia; pneumonia, respiratory infections and the flu are actually the leading causes of death for those age 65 and older. As we age, we become more susceptible to these infections, as well as other inflammatory diseases and cancers.
How to Boost Your Immune System
Germs are all around us, and it’s important that we take care to keep them from entering our bodies. Our immune systems are comprised of a very complicated network of cells, tissues and organs designed to keep us healthy and fight off infection and disease. As we get older, our immune system can start to change, and some of the cells can begin to lose their ability to communicate with each other and allow in more potentially harmful germs.
So how can you stay healthy and strengthen your immune system in preparation for the colder months ahead? Well, the first step is to practice healthy living overall! For instance, kick those nasty habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, maintain a healthy weight, control your blood pressure, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Remember to wash your hands often and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze to avoid the spreading of germs. Get to the doctor for your annual physical, too, as well as for screening tests for the risks you might be facing in your age group.
Immune System Boosters to Keep You Healthy
Studies are still being conducted to better understand how our immune systems work. However, there are a few immune system boosters for seniors and extra precautions older adults can take to help prevent more serious health issues from arising.
Here are just a few ways to give your immune system that extra boost it might need in the coming months:
- Eat a healthy diet. Fill your diet with fruits and veggies, which are rich in vitamins, as well as beta-carotene and zinc. It can be easy for older adults to get stuck in a rut with their foods, so try some new things. Make sure you’re eating a low-fat diet with plenty of whole grains and lean proteins. Adding in some superfoods like kale and berries helps, too!
- Get regular exercise. 30 minutes of regular exercise a day can help keep the doctor away! Staying active helps strengthen your immune system to better fight off those nasty infections. Studies have shown that people who don’t exercise are more likely to get colds than those who do.
- Stay socially connected. Even better? Work out with a buddy. Keeping those social connections strong also makes your immunity levels strong.
- Get adequate sleep. For adults, it’s recommended to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is one of the best ways to allow our bodies time to recover and rebuild our strength and energy levels.
- Drink plenty of water. It’s common for seniors to not feel thirsty very often, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to stay hydrated. You need at least 8 glasses of water per day to keep your mucous membranes moist- your daily coffee, tea or soup all count as water!
- Avoid unwanted stress. Constantly feeling stressed out can take a toll on your health and make you more vulnerable to illness and infection. Learn how to manage stress, whether through meditation, social connections, or exercise.
- Get vaccinated. It’s recommended that older adults receive an annual flu shot to help reduce the risk of sickness and even death.
For more information about American Senior Communities, please visit www.ASCSeniorCare.com.