The immune system is designed to provide sufficient protection against invading viruses and other “bad” things that can contribute to various illnesses. However, it tends to get weaker with age, which can be especially problematic if your senior loved one has underlying or chronic health conditions he or she is trying to manage. Below, you’ll find some of the top reasons seniors often have issues with a weak immune system.
Reduced Ability to Identify “Foreign Invaders”
Over time, the immune system becomes less capable of clearly identifying bacteria, viruses, and other toxic or foreign substances (antigens), which can increase an older adult’s risk of developing autoimmune disorders because the body considers things like joints and skin foreign. Some disorders of this nature likely to occur in seniors with weak immune systems include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Celiac disease
- Type 1 diabetes
There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional home care. Chandler families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place.
Less Responsive T Cells
T (T lymphocyte) cells are specialized white blood cells that help the immune system respond to foreign or toxic substances effectively. They also remember other antigens they’ve encountered before, which allows the immune system to kick into high gear if those same “bad” substances return. However, T cells gradually become less responsive in older adults, which contributes to a weaker immune system.
Less Effective Antibodies
Antibodies are proteins that help the immune system fight infections effectively. Over time, they’re not able to attach to the things that cause infections as well as they once did, which is part of the reason seniors are more susceptible to the flu virus and respiratory infections like pneumonia.
Poor Diet Habits
Seniors with poor diet habits may be making their immune systems progressively weaker. Sugary snacks, products containing gluten, processed foods, and refined oils are among the foods considered especially bad for the immune system. Older adults should also be mindful of their consumption of alcohol and caffeine. Foods that tend to be better for an aging immune system include:
- Citrus fruits
- Garlic, ginger, and turmeric
- Green, leafy veggies
- Skinless poultry and fish
Receiving help with maintaining a healthy diet is just one of the many ways seniors can age in place successfully. Aging adults who require assistance with the tasks of daily living can benefit from reliable at-home care. Families trust Home Care Assistance to provide the high-quality care their elderly loved ones need and deserve. Our caregivers are trained to help seniors prevent and manage serious illnesses and encourage them to make healthier decisions as they age.
Lack of Sufficient Exercise
Leading a sedentary lifestyle can make an older adult’s immune system weaker and increase the release of stress hormones associated with a higher risk of illness. A study involving over a thousand adults published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine determined that regular exercise has the opposite effect. Fortunately, there are many ways seniors can stay physically active, some of which include:
- Regular walking
- Low-impact aerobics
- Swimming, water walking, and other water-based activities
Poor Sleep Habits and Other Contributing Factors
A lack of high-quality sleep can also be a reason for a weak immune system. Additionally, older adults often have difficulty with sleep because of age-related changes with the body’s natural sleep-wake patterns. The National Sleep Foundation reports that sleep disturbances can also occur in the elderly because of issues with medication and chronic conditions. Seniors are advised to strive for 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep each night. Other factors that could affect an older adult’s immune system include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Excess weight
- The use of tobacco-containing products
If you find it challenging to provide the care your loved one needs to remain healthy, safe, and comfortable at home, help is available. Families who find it difficult to care for their aging loved ones without assistance can benefit greatly from professional respite care. Chandler, Arizona, family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties can turn to Home Care Assistance. Using our proprietary Balanced Care Method, our respite caregivers can encourage your loved one to eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of mental and social stimulation, and focus on other lifestyle factors that promote longevity. To speak with one of our friendly Care Managers, call (480) 448-6215 today.