Optimizing immune health is a pressing concern this flu season, as we’re also in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are ways you can protect yourself against both viruses.
With flu season rapidly approaching, you may be wondering what immune-boosting options are safe and effective for seniors—especially since we are also in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These six healthy strategies for seniors can help optimize your immune function and minimize your risk of exposure to either virus.
1. Get a flu shot
Now that fall is approaching, flu shots are available. It’s important that you get one as soon as possible. The flu is harder on seniors than other age groups, and the flu shot provides protective antibodies that can reduce your risk of catching it—even if you’re exposed.
2. Eat a healthy diet
What you eat can profoundly impact your immune health and your body’s ability to fight off harmful invading viruses.
Diets that may decrease your risk of getting sick are rich in nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats and proteins.
On the other hand, diets that are high in sugar and processed foods can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to disease.
Try to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors and limit the amount of sugar you consume. Additionally, you may want to consider a high-quality multivitamin if you know your diet is lacking in nutrients.
3. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can also strengthen the immune system. One study even found that regular exercise can improve the body’s response to vaccinations.
Even brisk walking makes a difference. If you can, aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. If you can’t do this much, start where you can and slowly build your strength and endurance.
4. Reduce stress
Chronic mental stress may weaken the immune system and can cause your body to have a more severe reaction to illness.
With winter approaching, you may be feeling stressed about both the flu and COVID-19. However, it’s important for your health that you try to minimize the stress in your life.
Practicing gentle yoga, mindfulness meditation, or hobbies that you enjoy can help you to manage your stress.
5. Practice good hygiene
To minimize your risk of catching either virus, wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap. Although hand sanitizer will work in a pinch, it’s not a good substitute for regular handwashing.
Additionally, make sure that you only wear disposable masks one time and that you wash reusable masks after each use. Don’t leave soiled masks in your car or purse to be reused.
6. Continue social distancing
Finally, you should continue social distancing as the flu season approaches and throughout the winter. Although, naturally, you will want to spend time with your loved ones (especially during the holidays), you should wear a mask or maintain a 6-feet distance at all get-togethers. Ideally, you should do both. Additionally, try to hold these functions outdoors or in extremely open and well-ventilated areas.
These six strategies can help minimize your exposure to and your risk of catching the flu or COVID-19 this flu season.