Are you immune to COVID-19 after recovering from it?
A new Rockefeller study offers an encouraging answer, suggesting that those who recover from COVID-19 are protected against the virus for at least six months and likely much longer to boost the immune system. The findings, published in Nature, provide the strongest evidence yet that the immune system remembers the virus and remarkably, continues to improve the quality of antibodies even after the infection has waned. Antibodies produced months after the infection showed increased ability to block SARS-CoV-2, as well as its mutated versions such as the South African variant.
Dr. Hannon, Specialist Registrar in Geriatric Medicine at Cork University Hospital (CUH) says while it has been an extremely challenging twelve months for everyone the vaccination program offers us all a ray of hope and a chance to get back to living our lives.
“We know from years of research that our lifestyle and health habits influence our levels of immunity and one of the things we can do to boost the immune system’s response to the vaccine is to exercise more and get fitter.” We know that 150 minutes per week of brisk walking can cause a 30% improvement in immunity levels. For optimum physical health older adults should aim to be active daily. Here are a few ways of boosting immunity to prevent COVID.
How can someone boost The immune system?
1. Daily exercise
No matter what your age or level of ability, regular movement benefits your physical, social, and emotional wellbeing. It is important to find activities that suit your health needs, level of ability and confidence, are enjoyable and can be done easily and often at home.
There are many key benefits of keeping active. Physical activity boosts circulation, improves flexibility, improves strength and improves balance. As we age, our balance reaction times and reflexes get slower. This can make it harder to regain balance, especially when we do something quickly. Our joints and muscles need regular exercise to stay in shape.
What amount of activity is good?
For optimum physical health older adults should aim to be active daily. Over a week the amount of activity should add up to at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) in bouts of 10 minutes or more. This will help boost the immune system.
- Light activity
Moving around your home, getting up to make a cup of tea or walking at a slow pace are kinds of light activities that help.
- Moderate activity
Moderate activity is the goal. This level of exercise is where you will get warmer, breathe harder but still be able to carry on a conversation. Types of activity include brisk walking, cycling a bike, dancing, and water aerobics.
- Vigorous activity
For those who are already regularly active at a moderate intensity, 75 minutes (1.25 hours) of vigorous-intensity spread throughout the week will reap added benefits. Vigorous activity will cause you to breathe much harder; your heartbeat will be more rapid and it will be more difficult to carry out a conversation. Activities include running, cycling hills, and hiking.
- Strength training
To keep muscles, bones and joints strong you can add two sessions a week of strength training. You can use your own bodyweight or work against resistance. Types of activities such as carrying or moving loads such as groceries, activities that involve stepping or jumping like dancing or chair aerobics qualify as strength training.
- Balance training
For older adults, you can improve your balance and coordination, and reduce your risk of falling by adding two balance sessions per week. Activities like dance, yoga, Tai chi, and bowling are considered balance training.
- Sedentary activity
You must minimize the amount of time you are sedentary. Break up periods of sitting down, get up and walk around every 30 minutes if you’re watching TV and taking regular walking breaks around the garden are considered as sedentary.
2. Eating well
Diet is important and dietitians Aisling O’Grady and Helen Cummins recommend eating more fruit and vegetables, protein-rich foods for your muscles like poultry and fish, dairy products with calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones, healthy unsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts, low salt and foods rich in fiber like porridge.
3. Sleep matters
Sleep is very important to boost the immune system and its functioning. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults aged between 18 and 64 need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, while older adults need 7-8 hours and children and adolescents require even more. Dr. Hannon advises that you should try to be as consistent as possible – “going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day is healthier than a chaotic schedule.”
4. Take better care of yourself
Covid-19 requires us to stay apart to protect ourselves and this can cause people to feel isolated, stressed and lonely. Over time, Dr. Hannon says this can affect our brains in a negative way, causing depression.
“It’s important to stay connected to family, friends, neighbors, or local groups. Schedule daily phone calls with family and friends to talk and keep up with the news. There are also many online and virtual cafes or groups that can be accessed to meet up and talk with people over the internet to keep you connected. Organizations such as ALONE have been running the BConnect initiative which provides support and training in the use of technology for older adults to help keep contact during COVID-19. All this is vital to boost the immune system.
5. Does up on Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential to boost the immune system. During wintertime, it is common for our bodies to not have enough Vitamin D in our system but thankfully Vitamin D supplements are safe, affordable, and available in most pharmacies.
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