Your first defense against disease is your immune system. And, your first means to maintain your immune system is to live a healthy lifestyle. How do you improve immune function through lifestyle?
Let’s outline what is a healthy lifestyle is? Probably most of the advice your grandmother gave to you would be consistent with a healthy lifestyle.
Living a healthy lifestyle means doing the following:
- Consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Getting plenty of high quality sleep (7 to 8 hours nightly).
- Exercising regularly (preferably aerobics plus resistance exercise).
- NOT smoking.
- Maintain healthy body weight (BMI of 25 or less).
- No more than moderate alcohol consumption.
- Develop strategies to minimize and manage stress.
- Drink plenty of water.
These habits are truths and truths are timeless. Developing them has and always will improve your health. They are consistent and overlap with these 8 Daily Rituals we have written about in the past.
Fruits and vegetables provide the necessary nutrients to fight disease including infections like respiratory infections. These foods also control silent inflammation which if unchecked leads to chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancers, and even neurodegenerative diseases.
Sleep is important because that it is during sleep that your body repairs itself including your immune system. Little sleep, little repair. Most of us have noticed we tend to get sick when we are tired, overwork, and not sleeping well.
Regular exercise improves overall immune function, though overtraining can suppress it. Overtraining is primarily a concern only for the competitive athlete.
Drinking water detoxifies the body, improves muscle function, improves energy, helps with weight control, and keeps skin healthier.
Maintaining a healthy body weight and/or BMI lowers the risk for heart disease, diabetes, other vascular disease, cancer, and arthritis.
Stress is hard to quantify and qualify. What is stressful for one person may not be for another. Plus, there are different types of stress. Acute versus chronic. And, then there is physical, emotional, psychological, and relationship stress.
One thing though is that stress especially ongoing or chronic leads to accelerated aging causing to age faster and die younger.
Immune System and Aging
The leading cause of death for those age 65 years-old and older are respiratory symptoms whether it be from pneumonia, influenza, and now COVID-19. The reason for that is our immune systems weaken with age. In particular we make less T-lymphocytes. This drop in T-lymphocytes increases the risk for both infections and cancer.
The elderly frequently suffer from micronutrient malnutrition and this may be the connection to impaired immunity seen with aging. Appetite tends to decrease with aging and so does activity level. The lower the activity the lower the need for calories which can make getting all the necessary nutrients difficult.
During this COVID-19 pandemic we need to take a hard look at the importance of social interaction and its impact on our outlook of life and overall mental well-being.
Being isolated is not healthy for our mental well-being. Isolation leads to depression and depression weakens our immune systems especially in the elderly.
So during this pandemic and stay at home orders we should explore as many ways possible to stay connected to those important in our lives.
Now more than ever we need to improve and maintain a healthy lifestyle to reduce our chances of being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19.
Follow these strategies to maintain healthy habits during the pandemic.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Live long!