The aging process does increase the need to strengthen the immune system. Aging is not synonymous with illness. However, getting older does increase the risk for many diseases and disorders. Overall, elderly people have an increased rate of chronic disorders, arteriosclerosis, infections, autoimmune disorders, and cancer.
This increased risk may be caused, in part, by the nature of these disorders. Most of the chronic disorders such as
arteriosclerosis are slowly progressive and do not show symptoms until they have been progressing for years.
Another significant part of this increased risk is probably related to aging changes in the immune system. The immune
system protects against diseases. It seeks out and destroys viruses, bacteria, fungi, and cancerous cells before they
can damage the body. It learns to tell the difference between “self” tissue and “non-self” particles. If you
strengthen the immune system you enhance your protection against those diseases.
Strengthen the immune system to respond to aging changes
The thymus, one of the organs of the immune system, is the site where certain immune cells called T lymphocytes or
T cells mature. The thymus begins to shrink (atrophy) after adolescence. By middle age it is only about 15% of its
Some of the T cells directly kill foreign particles. Others help coordinate other parts of the immune system, which
are specialized to attack different types of infections.
Although the number of T cells does not decrease with aging, T cell function decreases. This causes a weakening of
the parts of the immune system controlled by these T cells. If the T cell function are enhanced this will strengthen
the immune system.
Strengthen the immune system to counter the effects of aging changes
There is a slow, steady decrease in immunity after young adulthood. When the body is exposed to bacteria or other
microorganisms (by an actual exposure or by immunization), fewer protective antibodies may be formed or they may be
formed at a slower rate.Flu shots or other immunizations may be less effective, and protection may not last as long
Later in life, the immune system also seems to become less tolerant of the body’s own cells. Sometimes an autoimmune
disorder develops — normal tissue is mistaken for non-self tissue, and immune cells attack certain organs or tissues.
The immune system becomes less able to detect malignant cells, and cancer risk also increases with age as a result.
The immune system also becomes less able to detect foreign particles, and infection risk is greater.
Other things also increase the risk of infections. Sensation changes, gait changes, changes in the skin structure,
and other “normal aging changes” increase the risk of injury in which bacteria can enter broken skin. Illness or
surgery can further weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to subsequent infections. Diabetes,
which is also more prevalent with age, can also lead to decreased immunity.
If you strengthen the immune system it will also reduce the risk of inflammation and slow wound healing. Inflammation
is an immune response, when the immune system thinks there is trouble, it sends more cells to the site of the problem
and this causes swelling, pain, redness, warmth and irritation, which are the hallmarks of inflammation. Inflammation
often indicates infection, but may also occur due to autoimmune attack on “self” tissue as well.
Many older people heal more slowly. This may be directly related to changes in the immune system, or it may be a
consequence of other problems such as diabetes or arteriosclerosis, which leads to decreased blood flow to some
parts of the body such as the lower extremities.
Also, many older people take anti-inflammatory medications (to control conditions such as arthritis) and these are
also known to slow wound healing.
How to strengthen the immune system
Just as routine immunizations are important to prevent illness in children, a few routine immunizations are important
as we get older. Adult tetanus (Td) immunizations should be given every 10 years (a booster may be given sooner if
there is a “dirty” wound).
Your health care provider may recommend other immunizations, including pneumovax (to prevent pneumonia or its
complications), flu vaccine, hepatitis immunization, or others. These optional immunizations are not necessary for
ALL older people, but are appropriate for some.
Maintaining your body in good physical condition is important to strengthen the immune system. Wheter you are in
good shape or not you should also give your system a little extra support with health supplements. Perhaps obvious,
here are the “must do’s” to strengthen the immune system:
Eat a well-balanced diet
Minimize alcohol use. Moderate drinking seems to have some health benefits, but excessive drinking can cause serious damage
Use safety measures to avoid falls and other injuries
Take good health supplements specifically created to strengthen the immune system
Marc Deschamps is the editor of Health Longevity Magazine, a free online publication, featuring articles full of information on various health topics such as common diseases, immune support, cardiac, mental & sexual health plus appropriate solutions to help you find the road to health longevity. More articles can be found at [http://www.health-longevity-magazine.com]
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