With the coronavirus (COVID-19) continuing to infect so many we need to keep our immune systems strong to help us fight any viruses, bacteria or any other invaders that might come our way.
Your immune system is an intricate network of cells, tissues, and organs that band together to defend your body against invaders - things like germs, viruses and bacteria. A healthy immune system protects you by creating a barrier that stops those invaders from entering your body. If one happens to slip by, your body starts to produce white blood cells and other chemicals that attack and destroy foreign substances. In addition to blood cells and chemicals that physically attack germs, your skin, lungs, digestive tract, saliva and tears are also involved in the immune system.
While there are no COVID medications or immunity-boosting supplements that can prevent the coronavirus, there are steps you can take to make your defenses as strong as possible. Taking steps now to boost your immune health and keeping your immune system healthy year-round is key to preventing infection and disease.
Healthy living strategies you can do for your immune system include:
Exercise regularly. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Anything that gets your heart pumping such as - dancing to your favorite music, walking around the house or your neighborhood, gardening or doing yard work. Exercise slows the release of stress hormones while at the same time improves natural immune defense activity and lowers anxiety levels.
The best approach to preventing illness and disease is to eat a healthy well-balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, heart-healthy fats and lean proteins to provide your body with the best variety of nutrients.
Sleep is one of the most important health behaviors for optimal immune function, mental and physical health and quality of life. Getting a good night’s sleep boosts the effectiveness of specialized immune cells that are in charge of recognizing foreign invaders and activating the proteins that attach to and kill them.
Quit smoking. Smoking weakens the immune system. The chemicals in cigarette smoke are an ongoing source of damage to cells throughout the body and your immune system must continuously work to fight off this damage. Eventually, the immune system cannot keep up with all the damage caused by smoking.
Limit or eliminate alcohol consumption. Alcohol makes it harder for the immune system to gear up and defend the body against harmful germs, damaging the cells lining a person’s airway allowing viral particles, such as COVID-19, easier access.
In times of stress and uncertainty, it becomes even more important to engage in strategies that can help manage stress. Include activities in your daily life that help you handle stress like:
Stay connected to loved ones and friends by telephone or other channels.
Make time for the things that you enjoy.
Be mindful. Mindfulness is the habit of consciously paying attention to what is going on around you. It is paying attention to the small things in your life. Mindfulness slashes stress, relieves pain and improves your mood. Even washing dishes can be good for your brain as long as you do it mindfully.
Positive thoughts reduce stress and inflammation and increase resilience to infection.
Minimize newsfeeds. Try to reduce how much you watch, read or listen to news that makes you feel anxious or distressed. Seek the latest information at specific times of the day, once or twice a day if needed.
Snag a good hug, hugs lower stress. No one around to hug, you can get a big boost by petting your dog or cat.
Laugh. Chemicals are released to your brain when you laugh that lifts your spirits and help your body ward off illness and ease pain.
Dark chocolate not only tastes good but can give your mood a boost as well. Limit yourself to two squares a day though. Extra weight can be a buzzkill.
In addition to the above lifestyle and behavior practices, including these essential vitamins and minerals in your diet will help keep your body healthy. The easiest way to get these important vitamins and minerals is to reduce your intake of highly processed and sugary foods and increase your intake of fresh, healthy ones.
Vitamin C may help shorten the duration of colds and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Try consuming more oranges, grapefruit, broccoli, strawberries, red bell peppers and tomato juice to get your Vitamin C.
Vitamin D is used to fight off infections as well as works to maintain strong bones. Find Vitamin D in salmon, mushrooms, fortified milk, cereals and loaves of bread. Spending a few minutes in the sunshine raises your Vitamin D levels.
Vitamin A helps by keeping your tissues and skin healthy. Vitamin A can be found in foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots and spinach.
Vitamin E's job is to fight cell damage. Plant-based foods such as nuts and peanut butter are filled with Vitamin E.
Zinc works as an antioxidant and boosts metabolism along with helping with healing wounds. Meat, shellfish, beans/legumes and nuts/seeds are good sources of zinc.
Green tea has been recognized as having powerful antiviral properties. It increases the immune response and aids in the production of a quick-acting immune cell that launches a mighty attack on invading pathogens like the flu virus. However, green tea is caffeinated and not beneficial to everyone - check with your doctor if its right for you.
Pay attention to your body, be aware of energy levels, hunger pangs and pain. Tuning in to signals from your body will help with your overall well-being.
It’s important to know that a strong immune system will not prevent you from contracting COVID-19 so It remains imperative to continue practicing social distancing, face masks, maintaining good hand hygiene, sneezing and coughing etiquette and avoid touching your face.
Medicare Part D open enrollment period is October 15 – December 7 for coverage starting January 1, 2021. It is important to review your plan every year even if you are satisfied with your current plan. Drug formularies (covered drugs), premiums and deductibles change every year. Reviewing the plan options is the only way you can be sure you are getting the best plan for your individual needs. Call Kathy Burda at 570-621-3220 for more information.