As it’s been said many times before, prevention is the best medicine. Or another way of saying it is, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Whether it’s flu season, keeping healthy in the wake of the coronavirus, or just keeping healthy against seasonal illness, prevention is key to maintaining your health and preparing your body to do its job and fight illness naturally.
While prescribed medicine certainly has its place once the body acquires an illness, prevention is best approached from a broad perspective designed to address the whole person, not simply one area. Lifestyle choices and natural supplements can greatly improve one’s odds of not contracting an illness. This is one of the primary principles of Integrative Medicine.
Illness, or susceptibility to illness, is often preceded by unhealthy lifestyle choices. For example, according to Dr. Victoria Maizes from the Dr. Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, “…it is estimated that 90% of cardiovascular deaths could be prevented if Americans adhered to four preventative health recommendations (not smoking, maintaining a body mass index of <25, engaging in regular physical activity, and eating a healthy diet) and maintained healthy levels of three biomarkers (cholesterol <200, blood pressure <120/<80, and blood sugar <100).”
Regardless of the ailment, the immune system is critical in the battle against and prevention of illness. Shortly after the onset of Covid-19 in the US, the faculty at the Dr. Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine published a paper recommending a few important ways to boost your immune system. Below is a summary, but if you’d like to read the full paper, you can do so here.
Getting adequate sleep is one of the most important things you can do to live a healthy and fruitful life. Getting less than five hours of sleep per night has been associated with a 350% increased risk of becoming ill when exposed to the common cold. Sleep expert Dr. Matthew Walker suggests that anything less than six to seven hours per night “demolishes your immune system and more than doubles your risk of cancer.”
Additionally, and very important for the senior population, sleep has also been proven to determine whether your immune system will respond to the annual flu vaccine by producing antibodies.
Keeping stress under control is very important in preventing all types of sickness. When we are stressed, the immune system’s ability to ward off toxins is greatly reduced. The good news is that there are many peaceful and relaxing mental and physical exercises you can implement in your life that take only minutes per day, including mindfulness and meditation, yoga, tai chi, guided imagery, deep breathing, etc.
EAT A HEALTHY DIET
Science, as it relates to, “What is a healthy diet?” seems to change with the seasons these days. However, throughout the various iterations that have been fed to the American public, there have been a few consistencies.
The key seems to be constructing a diet with a significant number of anti-inflammatory foods. These include omega-3 fatty acids from fish, avoiding simple carbs, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables of varying color. Variety is key, and there are some specific veggies and antioxidants that have more powerful immune-boosting effects such as onion, garlic, parsley, celery, apples, tomatoes, oranges, nuts, and berries.
Specific supplements have been proven to reduce a virus’s ability to replicate or even enter a cell. Zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D, melatonin, and elderberry have all been shown to help boost the immune system prior to infection, according to Dr. Maizes.
Dr. Maizes notes that although these supplements have been shown to help prevent the oncoming of illness, they haven’t necessarily been proven to combat it once you have contracted it. Certain supplements may heighten a cytokine storm in your body, which may promote an illness once infected.
Boosting your immune system takes very little effort other than the discipline to treat your body in a manner consistent with healthy lifestyle choices. This is not to say you can’t enjoy that bowl of ice cream or cookie after dinner. As long as you are balancing your choices with healthy options, you will be on your way to maintaining a healthy and powerful immune system.
Remember to account for all aspects of your lifestyle, not just the food you eat, when supporting your immune system. This means getting adequate sleep as well as reducing stress through natural techniques such as mindfulness and meditation.
Clover Hill Senior Living promotes Integrative Assisted Care (IAC), which incorporates assistance with activities of daily living similar to that found in assisted living, along with natural preventative techniques that are guided by physician-directed plans. Together, they enable our residents to live their healthiest and best life possible.
No information given in this article should be accepted or construed as advice of any kind. Regardless of your state of health, it is always highly recommended to consult with your doctor prior to making any changes to your current lifestyle.
Clover Hill is located in North Haledon, New Jersey. For more helpful resources on learning about senior living, please visit the Clover Hill Senior Living Resources page. Or if we can answer any questions for you or help you along your journey in any way, please contact us directly.