Aging And Your Immune System

As you get older, it may seem like you get sicker more than when you were younger. It may even take longer for you to recover. The reason is simple. Your body’s immune system gets weaker as you age.

Your immune system is made up of cells, tissues, and organs that defend your body against infection. Together, they defend your body against things that can cause infection, like bacteria and viruses. You are also more susceptible to other invaders like cancer cells, worms and rejection of transplanted organs and tissue.

As you age, your fewer immune cells don’t communicate as well with each other. This results in your body reacting longer to harmful germs. This is why older adults are more vulnerable to pneumonia, influenza, infective endocarditis and tetanus. The immunity system weakens at a different rate for everyone so it’s important to visit your physician on a regular basis.


Allergies

Many people outgrow their allergies as they get older but others find they continue and may even develop new allergies. Compromised immune systems are less able to protect themselves against allergic substances like pollen and mold. Older people are less able to fight off allergens and certain foods and drugs.

It is estimated that allergy-related conditions in older adults is between 5 and 10 percent. Here are some common allergy signs and symptoms that may affect a senior.

  • Rhinitisis: The mucous membranes of the nose are inflamed resulting in:
    • Itchy nose, throat, eyes and ears
    • Sneezing, runny nose
    • Congestion, watery eyes
  • Sinusitis: Affects the sinuses behind cheekbones, around the eyes and nose. Symptons include:
    • Postnasal drip, congestion
    • Pressure in face, headache
    • Fever, cough
  • Skin allergies: Can develop into skin conditions. Symptoms include:
    • itching, rashes
    • inflamed skin
    • swelling below the skin
    • dry skin, blisters
  •  Food Allergies: Can develop because of changing immune systems. Symptoms include:
    • vomiting
    • intestinal discomfortred,
    • itchy rashes
    • swelling, itchy noses
    • anaphylaxis – trouble breathing, tingling sensations, tightness in throat

Emotions and Your Immune System

Studies show that frequent exposure to negative emotions can have an impact on the functioning of your immune system and your memory. Inflammation occurs naturally when your body reacts to infections or wounds. However, negative moods can increase exacerbated inflammation which is associated with poor health and chronic conditions like arthritis.

Negative feels like stress, sadness, anger and worry cause a spike in the hormone cortisol. This hormone suppresses your immune system. With this knowledge, it’s critical to become aware of your mental health. If you are experiencing difficult emotional times, be sure to seek out help and discuss the issues with your physician.


Strengthen Your Immune System

Here are some tips gathered from the latest research on how to improve and strengthen your immune system.

Nutrition

As you age, you may find that your appetite decreases. It is still important that you eat enough to get the right combination of food groups to obtain the vitamins and minerals you need. Become aware of the foods you are eating and how you are feeling. It may be necessary to tweak your diet so you feel more energetic and less lethargic. Reduce your intake of sugar, fat, and processed foods. Speak with your doctor if you think you are not getting enough vitamins and minerals from your diet. It may be necessary to take a multivitamin or herbal supplement. This article ‘How Aging Affects Our Nutritional Needs‘ will provide more information on your nutritional diet.

Avoid Stress

Awareness of your emotions is the first step to resolve negative feelings and transform them into a more optimistic outlook. Short-term stress won’t harm the body but chronic stress will lower your immune system, making you susceptible to viruses and illnesses. Adopt stress relieving routines like meditation, deep breathing exercises, coloring, gardening and other enjoyable activities. Exploring your spirituality and starting an exercise program are also great ways to help quiet your negative feelings.

Not only does exercise reduce stress, it also helps your body fight off infections and viruses. Your blood circulation increases resulting in an anti-inflammatory effect on your body. For maximum benefits, aim for 30 minutes of activity, three days a week.

Vaccinations

Your risk of developing an infection are reduced by 40 to 60 percent when you get an annual flu vaccination. The vaccine stimulates your immune system to create antibodies which helps to protect against infections. Timing is important as it takes up to two weeks for the flu vaccine to be effective.

The two vaccines specific for older adults are the Fluzone and Fluad . They offer a stronger immune system response to vaccination. Because the flu virus changes every year, you will need to get a vaccination every year. You can get the vaccine from your doctor, pharmacy or flu clinic.

Sleep

Sleep deprivation will lower your immune system. If you have insomnia, have a visit with your physician to address the issues. Not only is sleep necessary for your immune system but it also helps improve concentration, memory and brain function. You should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night. To help improve your sleep patterns, keep your room dark and quiet. Limit your daytime naps to no more than 30 minutes. Stay away from caffeinated drinks in the evening and eliminate all drinks prior to one and a half hours before bedtime.

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