The holidays are full the hustle and bustle of activity, spending time with family and friends, and eating (or overeating) some of our favorite foods. All that activity is fun, but it also has an effect on our immune system. Especially as an older adult, it’s important to pay special attention to winter wellness for seniors.
Even if your winter so far hasn’t been busy with activity, winter can be challenging to our immune system and staying healthy can be a challenge. Germs seem to thrive in the winter and more and more of our friends and family get colds and other illnesses that can spread quickly. No one likes to get sick, but during the winter, it seems easier to catch a cold or the flu that without a strong immune system, can turn into something much worse.
Although you can’t completely avoid getting sick, there are some easy and simple things you can do to support a healthy immune system. A strong, healthy body not only can help you keep from getting sick but if you do get sick, it can decrease the time it takes to recover.
Here are some ways you can support your body during the long winter months. As with any change in activity or diet, be sure to talk with your doctor before doing something new.
Tips to a Healthy Winter
WASH HANDS: Wash between fingers and under nails.
Regular hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness. The Mayo Clinic reports: It is well known that hand-washing helps to limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other germs. Wash hands after you go to the bathroom; wet your hands and lather up with soap for 20 seconds to help dislodge germs and rinse well under running water.
GET YOUR FLU SHOT & PNEUMOCOCCAL VACCINE: It’s not too late.
If you haven’t gotten them yet, it’s not too late. As we age, it’s even more important that we have these shots to support our immune system and keep us from having a life-threatening illness. Talk to your Doctor about these and other preventive vaccines you may need.
EAT NUTRITIOUS FOODS: Limit Junk Food.
The holidays are full of delicious treats that also decrease your immune system. Eating healthy and nutritious foods will help boost your immune system.
Including fruit and veggies such as lemons, blueberries, peppers, carrots, and broccoli for snacks or meals give you immune system vitamins to support your health. Lean meats add protein that supports your immune system with nutrients like zinc.
Adding lean beef and pork, seafood, nuts, and seeds all provide nutrients needed to support your body and can help you stay healthy.
EXERCISE: Ask Your Doctor.
Even though it’s cold, it’s important to keep exercising during the winter. Keep making trips to exercise classes or if you are homebound due to bad weather, take some time to get up out of the chair to stretch and do some light exercises.
Haven’t exercised in a while? Now’s a great time to start! Of course, you should check with your doctor on what types of exercises would be best, but once they do, most fitness centers and senior centers can help create an exercise plan to keep you strong and healthy as well as building up your immune system so it will continue to help prevent colds and viruses.
HYDRATE: Drink Water.
Drinking water, instead of coffee or tea, is important to keep you hydrated and your immune system strong. Viruses tend to hang around longer, even thriving in low-humidity conditions such as your nasal passages on a cold winter morning.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps mucous membranes to stay moist and healthy, therefore helping to keep viruses away.
SLEEP: Stay on Schedule.
Lack of sleep can have a serious effect on your immune system, making you more susceptible to catching colds. A study from Brazil found lack of sleep can result in a substantial decrease in the white blood cells that help to fight infection in the body.
As we sleep, our body works to support our immune system. Getting plenty of sleep will not only help you maintain winter wellness for seniors, but you’ll also feel better.