Your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against disease-causing microorganisms (a.k.a. germs). A strong immune system is able to fight off illness and disease, but the weaker your immune system, the more likely you are to get sick.
As the winter flu season approaches, is there anything you can do to give your immune system a boost? While there is more research to be done on the exact factors that contribute to a strong and healthy immune system, there is evidence that a healthy lifestyle can have a positive effect on your immune system.
Here are a few healthy lifestyle tips to help boost immunity and give yourself the best shot at a healthier winter.
Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that are essential to your health. The more variety you have in your diet, the more likely you are to get the range of nutrients your body needs to fight disease. This is especially important as we age. Senior adults are less likely to eat a wide variety of nutritious foods, and the lack of proper nutrition may contribute to reduced immune response and an increase in infections and disease that comes with age.
Chronic, on-going stress may take a toll on your immune system. Find healthy ways to manage the stressors you face on a daily basis to give your body the best shot at fighting illness. Find a hobby you enjoy, practice yoga or meditation, spend time in prayer, exercise regularly. These are just a few ways you can help manage your mental and physical reaction to stress.
Physical activity is a pillar of a healthy life. Regular exercise improves heart health, lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation, helps control body weight and in general contributes to a healthier immune system.
If you struggle to fulfill your body’s macro-nutrient needs through diet alone (as many of us do), taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement may help. Talk to your doctor about your diet and nutritional needs and get a recommendation for what (if any) supplement might be right for you.
Stop smoking or using tobacco products and moderate alcohol consumption. While light or intermittent smoking is better than heavy smoking, it still carries a long list of health hazards, including high blood pressure, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and poorer health related quality of life.
The scientific verdict is still out on just how much these and other healthy lifestyle factors may impact your immune system, but we do know that a generally healthy lifestyle leads to reduced risk factors for illness and disease.