Did you know there are more than 200 viruses that can make you sick?
Kind of makes you want to just stay home, stay inside, and get your food and groceries delivered, right?
For most of us, that’s not possible. There’s work, grocery shopping, taking care of kids, and everything else that requires being out and about and on the go.
And that’s means you’re going to be exposed to viruses that can make you sick like the:
- Influenza virus (the flu)
- Norovirus (sometime called the winter vomiting/diarrhea bug)
- Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19)
So what happens when a virus invades your body?
It triggers an immune-system response. Your body goes to work fighting the virus.
But if you’re not in good health when it happens:
- It takes longer for your immune system to fight back
- Symptoms can worsen
- Complications can arise
It’s played out with the 8.35 million people in the United States who have tested positive for COVID-19.1
Some experience mild symptoms, and get well. Some people experience serious breathing problems and complications that require hospitalization.
And current projections by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest COVID-19 cases are on the rise after taking a dip.
11 Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System
Wondering what can you do to protect your health and strengthen your immune system?
Here are 11 ways to get healthy, stay healthy and build a stronger immune system:2
- Don’t smoke or vape. If you do, get help to quit.
- Eat healthy foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are low in calories and high in vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants.
- Drink plenty of water (instead of soda, coffee with sugar and cream, and other sugar-sweetened beverages).
- Get vitamin D. Taking a multi-vitamin or vitamin D supplement can strengthen your immune system and protect your health. About 40 percent of adults in the U.S. are vitamin-D deficient. It’s a risk factor for increased infections and autoimmune disorders.3 You can boost vitamin D levels with 10+ minutes in direct sunlight outdoors, or with supplements.
- Exercise. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day. Pick an activity you enjoy (walk, jog, bike, hike, workout, etc.), and make it part of your daily routine.
- Maintain a healthy weight, or lose weight if you need to. Being overweight or obese can cause chronic inflammation and weaken the immune system.
- Manage stress in healthy ways. Excess stress causes hormone imbalances that weaken your immune system. Try yoga, deep breathing, or meditation. Even reading, listening to soothing music, can help beat stress. Or you may need to ask for help at home, at work, or see a counselor.
- Control blood pressure. Your diet, exercise habits, weight, and stress level all have an impact on your blood pressure. How is your blood pressure? Less than 120/80 is ideal.
- Avoid or limit alcohol. That’s no more than two drinks per day for men, one for women, zero if pregnant.10. Sleep 7 to 9 hours a night. Your body restores hormone levels that help reduce stress, improve metabolism, and boost the immune system when you sleep. When you get less than 7 hours, you risk for health problems increases.
- Practice good personal hygiene and follow COVID-19 recommendations in your area. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Avoid touching your hands and face. Use disinfectants to clean doorknobs, handles, countertops, and other high-traffic surfaces. And follow guidelines for wearing masks, social distancing, and limiting in-person gatherings.Want to protect yourself from viruses and strengthen your immune system? These healthy lifestyle habits will help. And now is always the best time to start.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). COVID-19 forecast deaths. From: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/forecasting-us.html
- Harvard University. (2020). Preventing the spread of the coronavirus. From: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/preventing-the-spread-of-the-coronavirus
- Saul, L., et al. (2019). 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 restrains CD4+ T cell priming ability of CD11c+ dendritic cells by upregulating expression of CD31. Frontiers in Immunology. From: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00600/full
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