I’ve always believed in living a healthy lifestyle and, in the age of COVID-19, I think it’s taken on even more importance. Since this is a new disease, for now the main risk factors seem to be age, and individuals with underlying medical conditions or those who are already otherwise compromised. Most likely we will know more as time goes on, but it’s clearly important to do what we can to stay healthy today.
Age is a factor because the immune systems of older adults are weaker, and older adults often have chronic illnesses that can increase the risk of infection but, unfortunately, all ages can be affected as we’ve seen in recent weeks.
Given that a healthy immune system is an important factor in disease prevention and recovery, what are some helpful ways to strengthen your immune system?
It turns out that the immune system functions at its best when it’s supported by the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t smoke, eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and minimize stress, you’re ahead of the game. All of you, including your immune system, functions better when supported by strong lifestyle habits.
We already know that lack of sleep can affect our mood, performance and focus, but over time it can also put us at risk of certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Prolonged lack of sleep can leave us fatigued and less able to mitigate illness or infection. Most people need around 8 hours but research shows that anywhere between 7 – 9 hours can be considered normal for a healthy adult.
Good nutrition counts. The National Institute of Health recommends eating more fruits and vegetables, and says that five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily can increase antibody response. Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines contain Vitamin C which is thought to increase production of white blood cells, which help to fight infection. Other foods to include are broccoli, garlic, red bell peppers, spinach, almonds and sunflower seeds, all of which contain significant vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
While a varied intake of nutrients is important, Vitamin C is especially so. Vitamin C is not stored in the body, so it’s important to include it on a daily basis. Other important vitamins are Vitamn E and Vitamin B6.
We know that our minds and bodies are connected, and minimizing stress is another key component of staying healthy and being able to fend off disease. Prolonged stress over time can result in suppression of the immune response, and has also been linked to heart disease, cancer and depression. In especially stressful times, it’s vital to do what you can to manage stress. Exercise, meditation, practicing gratitude,
spending time outdoors, or talking things out with a trusted friend are all ways to cope with stressful times.
Speaking of exercise, not only does it contribute to overall health, it especially promotes good circulation, which helps our bodies and therefore our immune system to function more efficiently. Exercise is a mainstay of a healthy lifestyle and thus a strong immune system.
Best practices to avoid infection, such as frequent hand washing, disinfecting common surfaces regularly, and cooking meats completely will go a long way towards keeping you safe and healthy, and are simple and easy to include in day-to-day living.
Finally, following recommended precautions – social distancing, wearing masks in public, covering your mouth if you sneeze or cough – can all help reduce risk, and help to protect you, your family and others.
Stay safe, take good care of yourself and your loved ones. And please let me know if there’s anything I can do to support you. Just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.