Coronavirus has made everyone around the globe question their approach to building a healthy immune system. From adults to children, every person is becoming more aware of maintaining a strong immune system to deal with the virus. Senior citizens especially face problems like cold and cough more often, as with growing age immunity keeps deteriorating.
According to WHO, “older people are facing the most threats and challenges at this time. Although all age groups are at risk of contracting COVID-19, older people face a significant risk of developing severe illness if they contract the disease due to physiological changes that come with ageing and potential underlying health conditions.”
It is hence essential for seniors and their caregivers to keep a check on their immunity to keep them active and healthy. As a doctor at a facility that caters to senior care needs, I have been recommending many such healthy diets, supplements, and exercise routines for seniors to follow. Let’s dive deep into some go-to tips for seniors to build their immunity.
Vitamins especially Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6 and B12, and Vitamin C can make a huge difference if incorporated into daily diets. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphorous in the body, hence enhances bone strength, and also lowers the risk of depression. Sources such as milk, egg yolk, and mushroom help regulate the growth and development of tissues. Sunlight is considered one of the best sources of Vitamin D, so it is advised to seniors to spend more time in the sun. Vitamin E sources like nuts, act as an antioxidant which helps protect cells from damage. It also works as an antioxidant. Vitamin C is responsible for the growth and repair of tissues. Found in citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, and strawberries, it helps to manage high blood pressure and forms protein that heals wounds. It also helps to boost immunity.
B vitamins like vitamin b6 and b12 are also important for energy levels. Vitamin B6 helps keep blood sugar within a normal range, vitamin B12 protects against anemia, and folate (folic acid) helps prevent changes to your DNA that could lead to cancer.
B6 and B12 Vitamins present in meats, eggs, bananas, seafood, and dairy too help in improving the immunity in seniors. It is of course very important to take these vitamins in the right proportion because anything in excess harms the body.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Fats are generally considered bad for health except when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids. Sources include walnuts and chia seeds which help control blood clots, manage cholesterol, and facilitates oil-production in the skin minimizing the signs of aging.
Herbs in India are used as spices to add flavor and make food delicious. Many are not aware that herbs like turmeric, black pepper, ginger, tulsi, ashwagandha, and mint serve as great immunity boosters for seniors. They provide anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties which help fight heart diseases and cancer.
Green leafy vegetables
Leafy green vegetables provide a range of health benefits as part of a balanced diet. Green vegetables are high in antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and much more! They keep you hydrated and can even make you feel happier. Green vegetables have proven to be beneficial in fighting free radicals and lowering cholesterol. A healthy portion every day protects elders from diseases and helps them live longer.
Sugars can be broadly classified into two categories - natural and added sugars. While natural sugar doesn’t harm the body much, added sugars lead to weight gain and diabetes. This doesn’t mean that seniors should not have sweet foods which are often quite appealing. There are substitutes like jaggery, honey, and stevia that can be used for desserts instead.
Build a routine
While having knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong for the body is essential, seniors should also be informed about the proportions and build a good routine for themselves. For a healthy sleep cycle and good digestion, one should start their day with omega-3 fatty acids and end it with a glass of warm milk. Keeping the overall diet low-fat is always recommended to beat the health problems. Staying hydrated is important to regulate body temperature and keep the organs functioning properly.
Food is not the only thing one needs to keep in mind while building immunity. It’s equally important to have an active lifestyle to avoid stress and stay fit. Active and passive exercises like low motion exercises, light yoga, and meditation will keep the mind and body fresh. It is advised to avoid drinking and smoking for seniors to enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
Consulting with experts
Each person is different and has different requirements when it comes to health. It is important to consult with experts to know what suits one better. At our health facility, we make sure every patient is assessed thoroughly before advising them of any diet plan.
Every patient comes with their own problems and hence should be guided differently. These tips can be handy for seniors to build strong immunity.The author is Consultant Physician and Head Clinical Operation Delhi/ NCR at Antara, a Max Group company specializing in senior care.