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3 Tips to Boost Your Immune System

Senior couple riding bikes outdoors

For older adults, it’s never been more timely to take steps to boost your immune system. With the novel coronavirus, we’ve learned how important it is for seniors to build up their body’s natural defense system.

In this blog, we’ll give you 3 tips for boosting your immune system, which is an intricate network of cells, tissues, and organs that defend your body against invaders like bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Immunity tends to decline as we age, which makes us more prone to illness and infections. A weaker system may mean you get sick more often, take longer to recover from illness or don’t heal as quickly as you used to.

But the good news is, there are steps you can take to strengthen your immune system. Medical experts recommend that seniors implement these key strategies:

1. Eat a healthy diet

Make sure your diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, which contain vitamins and antioxidants that can help you fight off viruses.  It’s best to get your vitamins from food rather than supplements.

Vitamins with the highest benefits to the immune system are vitamins C, B6 and E. Foods rich in Vitamin C include oranges, blueberries, grapefruits, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli and spinach. Make sure to get a daily intake of Vitamin C because your body doesn’t make or store it.

Vitamin B-6 rich foods include chicken, salmon, tuna, green vegetables and chickpeas. If you don't get enough B6, your body can't make the antibodies, white blood cells and other immune factors it needs to fight germs and ward off diseases. And to pack in the Vitamin E, eat nuts, sunflower seeds and spinach. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, which protect your cells from damage caused by harmful molecules.

At Willow Brook, our chefs serve healthy food to boost residents’ health. Tim Kidwell, culinary director at Willow Brook at Delaware Run, shares his recipe for a carrot/ginger soup. “This carrot ginger soup is rich in vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants,” says Kidwell. “I can’t think of a more delicious way to fight off any illness.”

And with summer upon us, it’s a great time to check out farmers markets to get fresh vegetables and fruits. Local farmers bring their best homegrown produce to these markets. For those in Central Ohio, check out the Delaware Farmers Market and Millers Country Gardens.

2. Get active

Regular physical activity will strengthen your immune system, so keep moving! Strive to get at least 30 minutes of activity several times per week. Walking is one of the best ways to exercise without stressing your body. Try to walk outdoors when the weather is nice. Spending time outdoors has an additional benefit. It allows your body to convert vitamin D from sun exposure, and Vitamin D helps strengthen your bones and immune system.

It’s also easy to exercise from the safety and comfort of your own home by taking classes online. SourcePoint, a senior care organization in Delaware County, offers a number of online classes to keep you healthy and strong. Check out these prerecorded workouts on SourcePoint's website.

If you are caring for a frail adult, encourage them to do simple exercises. Why not do them together? As a caregiver, you need to care for yourself as well. Check out this video for 10-minute chair exercises.

3. Get eight hours of sleep

Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system. Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, creating an immune response. Some people think that older adults don’t need as much sleep as younger people, but that’s a myth. As we age, sleep remains very important because it helps improve brain function, concentration and memory.

To improve the quality of your sleep, engage in physical activity about 5 hours before your bedtime, recommends Carol Roden, a registered nurse at Willow Brook Christian Communities. She also urges seniors to keep a regular schedule during the day and to have a bedtime routine, so your body knows it's time for sleep.

Other sleep strategies include staying hydrated all day long, limiting naps to no more than 45 minutes and avoiding caffeine after 3 p.m. Roden also recommends a light snack at bedtime. If you try these tips but still don't feel rested when you awaken, consult your doctor, who may evaluate you for sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. It’s worth the effort to treat these issues. Getting plenty of sleep at night is one of best immune system boosters for seniors.

At Willow Brook, we offer many ways for our residents to stay healthy. Our facilities have fitness centers and exercise classes to help you get fit. Our social activities and outings keep you moving and connected to other people (interpersonal connections also boost the immune system). Our wellness nurses can advise you on everything from improving your sleep to eating better and creating an exercise routine.

And to help you age in place, we offer a variety of housing and healthcare options, which reduces your stress and gives your family peace of mind. For more information, call us at 740-201-5640 or fill out this form:

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