Editor’s note: This article was published on January 15, 2021. COVID-19 information and recommendations are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website or view our most recent COVID-19 blog posts.
Your immune system is pivotal in keeping you healthy. In the midst of a pandemic, it is even more beneficial for your immune system to be in tip-top shape.
The immune system isn’t just for fighting or protecting us from infections.
“It also protects us from other medical conditions like cancer and is a healing mechanism for injuries,” said Dr. Hend Al-Saleh, infectious medicine physician at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “We don’t really think of those things when it comes to the immune system. It is critical to optimize and get our immune system at its peak if you want overall health improvement.”
What healthful steps can you take? Dr. Al-Saleh recommends these health steps you can take to improve your immune system:
Stay up to date with your flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccines, but also, get the COVID-19 vaccination if it’s available to you. Taking the flu vaccine can be life-saving, Al-Saleh said. Pneumococcal vaccine data has shown to help people live longer.
“It has been proven that people with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, those at high-risk, if you administer flu and pneumococcal vaccines, there is a huge decrease in risk of other diseases and an increased lifespan,” Al-Saleh said.
Help improve your mental health by not completely isolating yourself. In a pandemic, find safe ways to virtually connect with family and friends.
“I think it is important to stay connected to love ones and have a social life, which can be difficult in a pandemic,” Al-Saleh said. “We undervalue the value of getting out and being with people. We undermine social importance. There are a lot of statistics that show people who have an active social life live longer than those who are isolated.”
Stress and your immune system are intertwined. Whether it is exercising, listening to music, seeing a psychiatrist or social interaction with your family and friends, these are healthy ways to minimize stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are more healthy ways to minimize stress.
Eat healthy and exercise
A healthy diet, practicing good hygiene and regular exercise are all important to strengthening your immune system.
Smoking greatly impacts your overall health.
“If you stop smoking, it can have extreme effects on your health,” Al-Saleh said. “Everyone looks at the heart and lungs, but quitting helps your overall health. If you smoke it Increases your chances for all types of cancers. Smoking throws the immune system out of balance and puts you at risk for infections and not being able to fight off and destroy cancer cells. Research has shown that healing is hindered by smoking. Why are they not healing? The common factor is usually found to be smoking.”
Several factors can help improve your immune system, but a healthy lifestyle is perhaps the most important.
“A lot of people take things for granted, thinking their immune system will kick in, or have beliefs that when they get older their immune system is worse. But there are things we all can do to help our immune system reach its peak,” Al-Saleh said. “Patients can take control of their health and immune health by requesting all their vaccines in one sitting for convenience.”