As we grow older, our immune systems tend to weaken, making us more susceptible to illnesses and infections. This is due to a variety of factors, such as a decrease in the production of immune cells, lower levels of antibodies and a decrease in the body’s ability to fight off disease. While there is no way to completely stop the ageing process, there are steps that can be taken to help maintain a healthy immune system as we age.
To begin with, it is important to consider our sleep levels. As we age, our bodies need more rest, and not getting enough sleep can have a negative effect on the immune system. A 2015 study from the University of California showed that people who slept fewer than six hours each night during the course of a week were more than 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold. However, it should be noted that the researchers deliberately tried to infect the participants by directly administering nasal drops containing the cold virus. As a general rule, aim for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
A balanced diet is also crucial for a healthy immune system, with plenty of fruits and vegetables containing essential vitamins and minerals. Limiting processed and sugary foods can also prevent the weakening of the immune system. For some people as they age, a loss of interest in food makes it harder to eat well and get all the nutrients we need for good health. Reducing calorie intake may also help to extend your lifespan, according to various studies.
As Sara Stanner, Science Director at the British Nutrition Foundation, says, “There’s no single nutrient or food that can ‘boost’ immunity. This means that having a healthy, varied diet is key for getting the nutrients that are most important for our immune system, as well as all the other systems of the body.”