Your immune system is your body’s defense against invaders such as bacteria, infections, cancer and other diseases. It’s made up of cells, organs and tissues that work together to protect your body. As you age, your immune system will not work as well as it once did. It can become slower to respond to infections which means you may get sick more often with colds and flus. Vaccines and flu shots may not work as well when you are older. When you do become ill, your body may heal more slowly than it did when you were younger. This is because there are fewer immune cells to protect you and to help you heal.
Auto-immune disorders are more likely to occur as you age. These diseases come about when your immune system mistakenly attacks your healthy body tissues and destroys them. Examples of auto-immune diseases are lupus and rheumatoid arthritis as well as others.
What can we do to protect our immune systems as we age?
- Choose your food wisely. Nutritious food helps to keep your body healthy and strengthen the immune system.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking. Both weaken the immune system and leave you more vulnerable to disease.
- Exercise and move more. Moving your body keeps it strong.
- Get your yearly flu vaccine and other needed vaccines. As you grow older your body has a more difficult time fighting off the flu. It also takes longer for you to recover after a bout of the flu.
Just like the rest of your body, as you age, your immune system is not as strong and robust as it was when you were younger. Your body is good at recognizing previous infections and diseases it may have encountered, however, it is the new viruses and infections that it has trouble figuring out. Taking care of yourself as you age means knowing when you need sleep. It also means realizing when you’re not moving around enough. Eat what is healthy for you when you are hungry, try to avoid what you know isn’t good for you and your immune system will stay healthy.