An older woman stretching in a yoga class

In the United States, flu season typically lasts from October to May. The flu virus affects people of all ages each year, and symptoms include coughing, runny nose, fever, chills, body aches, and headache. Symptoms can be mild or severe and usually last for 3 to 7 days.

The flu can cause some problems, but there is a risk of serious problems for people over the age of 65. Older adults have a less robust immune system.

If you are over 65, here are some things you can do to strengthen your immune system.

Getting your annual flu shot is one of the best ways to protect yourself from the flu. The flu shot is shown to reduce the risk of hospitalizations in older adults by 40 percent and can reduce the overall risk of flu infection by 40 to 60 percent.

The vaccine stimulates your immune system to make antibodies. This helps protect against infections.

There are different types of vaccines. People of all ages can get some vaccines.

Fluzone High-Dose and Fluad Quadrivalent are for people over the age of 65.

  • Fluzone High-Dose. This vaccine contains four times more antigens than the standard vaccine. Your body creates more antibodies to fight the flu in response to higher levels of antigens. People with the high dose vaccine had 24 percent fewer flu infections compared to those who had a standard flu shot.
  • Fluad Quadrivalent. This vaccine has an added ingredient called MF59 adjuvant. This boosts the immune response and also creates more antibodies to protect you from the flu.

“Every year the flu virus changes. The flu shot can change based on predicted strains. It is important to get the vaccine every year. You can get the flu shot888-607-3166 at your doctor’s office, pharmacy, or a flu clinic.”

You can also ask your doctor about pneumococcal vaccines to protect against pneumonia and meningitis.

A balanced diet is important for boosting your immune system. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is a good way to promote good health.

The immune system is supported by vitamins and minerals. A variety of foods is the best way to meet your needs.

Specific vitamins that play a role in immune health include:

  • B vitamins. B vitamins are found in dairy products, grains, meats, eggs, and beans. Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in older adults. Ask your doctor if you need a supplement.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, especially red and orange types and citrus fruits. Most people are able to get enough from food and usually a supplement is not needed.
  • Selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant that is found in small amounts in many foods. Sources include nuts, meats, and grains.
  • Zinc. Zinc is a mineral is found in oysters, cheese, beans, lentils, and beef. Most people are able to get enough from their diet but in special cases, a supplement may be recommended.

There is some evidence that a Mediterranean-style diet can support good immune function. A Mediterranean diet can also play a role in helping to prevent and manage chronic diseases.

This diet includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It emphasizes healthy fats from sources such as fish, olive oil, olives, nuts, and seeds.

Malnutrition reduces immune function, which increases the risk of illness, according to 2019 research. If you are having trouble eating enough or getting enough variety, talk to your doctor. You can also work with a registered dietitian if you need some extra help.

It is important to keep moving as you get older. It can keep you strong as you get older. Exercise increases blood circulation and has an anti- inflammatory effect.

Additionally, regular physical activity is associated with better immune function, according to 2020 research. It’s believed that being active increases the body’s ability to detect harmful invaders.

For older adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

  • At least 150 minutes of intense activity every week.
  • muscle building exercises twice a week.

Everyone starts from a different place. If you are not currently active, activity counts will increase. If you have pain or other challenges, you should consider working with a physical therapist.

Chronic stress can have many negative effects on the body, including lowering your immune response. When under stress, the body increases the production of a hormone called cortisol.

“Cortisol helps the body deal with stress. It limits bodily functions that aren’t essential in a fight or flight situation The immune system is included.”

The immune system can be limited over time and make you more susceptible to infections.

Learning how to manage stress when it arises is a good option for people who are trying to live a life without stress. Some options have some things in them.

  • Making time for things that you enjoy doing, like gardening or reading.
  • exercising.
  • trying mindfulness or meditation strategies

If you are having trouble with stress, you should consider working with a therapist.

Quality sleep becomes more important as you get older. Getting enough sleep can improve your brain function.

Conversely, sleep deprivation can cause a multitude of issues, like reducing the effectiveness of the immune system.

Try a few methods to improve your sleep.

  • Make sure your room is quiet and dark.
  • When possible, keep a regular routine.
  • limit daytime naps to about 45 minutes
  • “It’s a good idea to avoid the drug later in the day.”
  • Limit alcohol to prevent it from interfering with sleep quality.

If you are dealing with insomnia or other issues that keep you awake at night, talk with your doctor to see if there could be any underlying causes.

Your body is home to trillions of tiny organisms. Your microbiome is made up of a variety of beneficial bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. Most are found in the digestive tract (gut) and play many important roles in your overall health.

Your gut is directly connected to your immune system. When your gut microbiome is in good shape, your immune system is better able to detect and fight off infection, according to 2018 research.

Here are some things you can do to maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

  • Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are high in fiber.
  • Try foods with a lot of fermentative ingredients, such as kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and tempeh.
  • When necessary, use antibiotics.

The chemicals in cigarettes are known to damage lung tissue and increase the risk of cancer. Smoking can also suppress your immune response, according to 2016 research. People who smoke are more likely to have respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

Taking steps to quit or reduce smoking can improve your immune system function. Nicotine patches or nicotine gum are some of the cessation aids. Some people find support groups helpful.

You can talk to your doctor about taking medication to stop craving cigarettes.

Being outside has so many benefits for your health. Many people find that time in nature helps to reduce their stress. Another bonus of outdoor time is vitamin D from moderate sun exposure.

Vitamin D helps strengthen the immune system. When your vitamin D levels are adequate, they may help prevent inflammation and some autoimmune diseases.

A 2017 review suggests vitamin D may also help prevent certain infections. When more than 11,000 people were analyzed, researchers found that those who supplemented vitamin D had fewer respiratory infections.

Outside of salmon and beef liver, there are not many food sources that are naturally high in vitamin D. Depending on where you live, your skin color (melanin, or skin pigmentation, plays a role in the amount of vitamin D synthesis that occurs from sun exposure), and how much time you spend outside, it may be hard to get enough vitamin D from food and from the sun.

If your vitamin D levels are low, your doctor may recommend a supplement.

When you are over 65, your immune system can be weakened, which can make you susceptible to the flu.

Staying active, eating a good mix of fresh foods, spending a moderate amount of time outside in the sun, and getting as much quality sleep as possible can help keep your immune system in good shape.