As winter returns to the Midwest, colds and viruses often accompany it. From projections of a tough flu season this year to newer strains of COVID-19, the immune system faces many threats during the coldest season of the year. That’s why it’s a good time to take proactive steps to boost your immunity. From quality sleep to managing stress, here are a few tips to explore.
Immune System Booster Tips for Older Adults
- Consume a well-balanced diet: A healthy lifestyle begins with food. Your diet can offer protection to the immune system. Lean protein and fresh produce should be staples in your daily life. This MyPlate for Older Adults video offers useful information seniors can use to plan nutritious menus.
- Engage in regular exercise: Staying active also plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy immune system. As we grow older, it’s important to find ways to exercise that don’t increase the risk for falls or other age-related issues. If you aren’t exercising regularly, a few winter activities to discuss with your primary care physician include walking on a treadmill, cycling on a recumbent bike, chair yoga, and Pilates. Resistance bands or small handheld weights can aid in building and protecting muscle mass.
- Stay hydrated: While many people associate dehydration with warm weather, it can actually be a year-round problem. It can also put your immune system at risk. The general recommendation is to drink 8 glasses of water a day. If you can’t bring yourself to drink that much water, decaffeinated beverages, juices, and soup can help you hit your target intake.
- Get good quality sleep: Many people don’t realize how vital quality sleep is to healthy aging. Insomnia and other sleep issues that are more common with age can negatively impact wellness. Everything from a lack of exercise to medication side effects and sleep apnea can make getting a good night’s sleep a struggle. If you are having problems sleeping, talk to your physician. They might refer you for a sleep study. This can identify the root cause and potential treatment options.
- Control your stress: The belief that retirement means stress-free days is a myth. Older adults are just as likely to experience chronic stress as other age groups. Chronic stress makes your body produce greater amounts of a “fight or flight” hormone known as cortisol. It’s what helps us react quickly and navigate through a crisis. Generating too much cortisol over a long period of time can increase inflammation in your body. This inflammation can result in a variety of health problems, such as heart disease and autoimmune conditions. Stress can also decrease lymphocytes, the white blood cells that aid the body in fighting off infection.
- Discuss supplements with the doctor: One last tip is to talk with your primary care physician to see if they recommend any supplements. Vitamin D, for example, is one seniors may need during the winter when sun exposure is often limited. Calcium is another. While supplements usually can’t compensate for a poor diet, there are some you might consider based on your personal wellness.
Live Your Best Retirement at a Heritage Community
Whether it’s nutritious, home-cooked meals or numerous opportunities to stay active every day, Heritage Senior Communities promote healthy aging. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!