How to Optimize your Aging Immune System

By Dr. Nicole Didyk

Posted May 3rd, 2020 in Caring for Yourself, Prevention, Aging Successfully

In this video, you'll hear tips about how to optimize the function of your aging immune system. There are some normal , age-related changes to the immune system, which is called "immunesenescence". Healthy lifestyle choices are the easiest way to keep the immune     system in good working order.  A full transcript of the video is below the video link                   

If you're an older adult and you want to boost your immune system, what should you do? I'll give you some tips on The Wrinkle. If you haven't watched before. My name is Dr. Nicole Didyk and I'm a geriatrician. I'm a doctor who specializes in the care of older adults.
The truth is that as people age, the immune system does decline a little bit. It's called immune senescence and senescence kind of means aging. So immune senescence are the changes in the immune system with aging.

 They can include things like a decrease in the number of immune cells, like T-helper cells, for example, and in the function of those cells. There's also a process called inflammaging, which is basically an increase in the production of inflammatory cytokines, which are chemicals that kind of promote inflammation. Inflammaging can happen in young people, too. In fact, obesity is a risk factor for inflammaging. And if somebody gets very, very ill. So, for example, if they have a bacterial infection in the blood or sepsis, that can  promote inflammaging also.

 So it's almost like a little crash course in aging. So inflammaging can happen at any age, but it does happen even with normal aging Knowing this, what are things that you can do to combat immune senescence? One thing that reduces inflammation at any age is physical exercise. Even a single session of physical exercise can promote the release of some anti inflammatory chemicals.
When you exercise, you release some positive chemicals. I can't say exactly which type of exercise is the best, but probably the one that you like to do and are going to be interested in doing regularly and for a longer period of time is the right one for you.

 So that might be walking, swimming pickleball or lifting weights. It's all good. It's not very hard to see somebody giving you dietary advice about how to boost your immune system. But there really isn't a magic superfood. There's a lot of superfood out there and most of it is vegetables and fruit. We do think that polyunsaturated fatty acids or n-3 PUFA’s,  the kind of PUFA’s that are found in fatty fish like salmon, for example, or walnuts or other nuts and seeds. They do seem to be helpful in boosting some of that immune function.
We can't sort of say how much somebody should eat or whether or not it's a good idea to take a supplement or just try to get those nutrients from your daily diet.
So my advice would be to eat a healthy diet that is very rich in vegetables and fruits and try to add in some of those n-3 PUFA’s. You can just say: “N-3 PUFA’s” when you're ordering at a restaurant and see what happens. (Don't go to a restaurant right now, it's coronavirus).

 The other classic advice for boosting your immune system are things that you hear all the time when doctors or nurses are giving you advice about your overall health, including your cardiovascular health.

 We would advise stress reduction. Exercise is good for that. Meditation can also help, but stress reduction probably will help with immune function.

 Getting enough sleep is important as well. This is natural sleep. If you don't sleep well, taking a sleeping pill probably won't help your your sleep in terms of boosting your immune system. But again, if you're exercising and eating well, you're more likely to have a healthy sleep pattern. Finally, things like not smoking will also be helpful to the immune system. It's just all those basic, good, healthy habits. Of course, there are other things that can affect immune function as well, like your overall health conditions and genetics, some of those things you can't control. And it's better in terms of stress reduction to try not to stress about them too much, just do the best you can with what you've got.

So if you were hoping that this video was going to tell you to eat a pound of blueberries a day to keep the infection away, I'm afraid that's not the case. But following some good old fashioned lifestyle advice might make a difference. And it'll certainly make you feel better.
If you want to know more about aging go to or watch the video that's being suggested on your screen right now here on YouTube. Thanks for watching.


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