COVID-19: Boost Your Immune System
Keep Stress to a Minimum
It sounds like a bad joke, but it’s true. Stressing yourself out over COVID-19 can increase your chances of contracting it. That’s largely because of stress hormones like cortisol. Over short periods, cortisol reduces inflammation and helps regulate blood pressure. In the long run, however, persistent stress and elevated stress hormone levels can wreak havoc on your immune system. High-stress individuals don’t just risk contracting illnesses like COVID-19, but are more likely to develop conditions like arthritis and even cardiovascular diseases.
Psychology Today encourages seniors to identify sources of daily stress to develop plans for making them more manageable. Additionally, they suggest mindfulness and relaxation exercises like meditation and yoga. During a high-stress period like the ongoing outbreak, these efforts are especially crucial.
“Low- and moderate-intensity exercise naturally lowers cortisol levels and helps with immune-system function.” This is according to Andrew Diamond, chief medical officer of One Medical. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Diamond recommends between 30 and 60 minutes of exercise daily to maximize these positive effects. Though the gym may pose health risks, seniors are welcome to exercise in their homes, but shouldn’t overdo it.
Recent studies suggest that particularly intense physical activity can actually make a person more vulnerable to infection for several days.
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Manage Your Diet
A balanced, healthy diet is always a good idea for seniors. That’s all the more true when viral outbreaks threaten vulnerable immune systems. Seniors should seek out nutrient-rich foods including dark leafy greens, berries, nuts, and seeds. Per the Wall Street Journal, most nutritional experts say you strive to get as many nutrients as possible from food rather than additional supplements. Seniors should also stay hydrated and limit their alcohol consumption.
Morgan Katz, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, suggests a daily portion of plain yogurt. “It helps to support the good bacteria that live in your body,” she said, “which helps to fight bad bacteria and viruses.”
Stop Smoking or Vaping
There are countless reasons not to use nicotine products. COVID-19 provides a reminder that smoking’s impact on the immune system can be especially dire. Smokers are more susceptible to respiratory infections like pneumonia and influenza and tend to experience more severe symptoms of those illnesses.
Stay Safe and Healthy
The World Health Organization (WHO) advises seniors to take many of the same preventative measures they would take during any cold and flu season. These include regular hand washing, social distancing, and good respiratory hygiene. Read our summary of WHO’s guidelines for additional information and check back regularly for updates.