As you age you produce fewer immune bolstering cells. Your system is not as balanced as it once was, and inflammation is more likely to settle in— somewhere in that magnificently engineered structure, the human body. External forces can further erode your immune system, including sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, injury, illness, stress and lack of sleep.
Now that many of us are confined to our homes, except for essential needs, all of the aforementioned are exaggerated. This is especially true for the elderly who are, by definition, in the final 25 years of the average life expectancy in the United States of about 78.5 years. It also includes those with immune systems compromised by any of a number of infiltrators like heart disease, diabetes, degenerative disease and cancer.
There are no miracle cures for weakened immunity, but there are ways to keep it from deteriorating under stressful conditions. And that stress may be both physical and psychological.
Stress may feel overwhelming, with no end in sight, in the midst of a pandemic overtaking the land. It is not an enemy we can confront and vanquish, other than staying clear of the invader and playing a waiting game that itself can be frustrating and depressing because there is so little we can do. There is nothing to fight, no affirmative action or heroic defense like those out on the front lines treating the sick, furnishing food, filling prescriptions, fighting fires and curbing crime.
Saving Lives by Staying Healthy
Your job is to hunker down, stay inside as much as possible and avoid other people, including close friends and extended family. You will be saving other lives by staying healthy, and that’s pretty heroic.
High on the list of immunity strengtheners are diet, exercise and sleep. So what’s the big deal? Everybody eats and sleeps, and who cares how many pushups you’re doing in the basement? We should be out there doing something. Right? The problem is that most of us shouldn’t be out there at all. Eating right and exercising require planning and scheduling, but the value of sleep is often given short shrift.
It is sleep that is the most underrated of our daily activities, because we aren’t active at all when we do it and don’t seem to be doing anything constructive. Actually, your body needs sleep, demands it, in fact, to fight off infectious diseases and replenish internal ammunition to keep the ravages of stress at bay. Your immune system helps promote sleep by releasing proteins called cytokines. Too little sleep, by the way, leaves you more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity— and all wreak havoc on the immune system.
So sleep to your good health. The hospitals and doctors are overworked as it is.