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How Aging Changes Your Immune System

Your immune system is a remarkable thing. Every minute of every day, it goes to work helping protect you from harmful substances like bacteria, viruses, toxins, cancer cells, and blood or tissues from another person. But just like in so many other areas, the immune system does not work as well as we get older. It becomes slower to respond and its ability to detect and correct defects also declines. In some cases, an autoimmune disorder may develop, where the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue.

The name 'immunosenescence' has been used to describe loss of immune functions in individuals 65 and older. This is why the older we get, the more susceptible we become to infections, inflammatory diseases and even cancer. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to boost your immune system as you age.

10 Tips for keeping your immune system strong

  1. Get plenty of exercise. Exercise helps boost your immune system.
  2. Eat healthy foods. Good nutrition keeps your immune system strong.
  3. DO NOT smoke. Smoking weakens your immune system.
  4. Limit your intake of alcohol. Ask your provider how much alcohol is safe for you.
  5. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is one of the best natural immune system boosters and helps us respond better to stress and inflammation
  6. Get the flu and pneumonia vaccines, and any other vaccines your health care provider recommends.
  7. Maintain a positive outlook. A healthy, positive disposition will boost endorphins and make you feel better.
  8. Stay on top of your health. If you have diabetes, arthritis or other conditions that affect how you feel, follow your doctor's recommendations closely. Keeping illnesses like diabetes well-controlled takes less of a toll on your immune system.
  9. Steer clear of sick people. When you’re older, you have to be especially careful about germ exposure, because you’re more likely to become ill too.
  10. Find ways to reduce stress and maintain a positive attitude. Over time, stress may lessen your immune response.