6 ways to keep your immune system healthy
Your immune system plays a vital role in keeping you healthy. It’s your personal line of defense against sickness, infections, and disease. And as we face daily challenges due to COVID-19, it’s important now more than ever to make sure your immune system is at its peak.
Here are steps you can take to help keep your immune system healthy.
1. Protect yourself from infectious diseases
When your immune system is working to kill a virus or disease, it can take a toll on your overall health. So, it’s important to avoid infections whenever possible. For example, wearing a face covering when in public will help prevent your exposure to COVID-19 — and help protect those around you. Other things you can do to protect yourself include:
- Practice proper hygiene
Wash your hands, avoid touching your face and shower or bathe regularly.
- Get vaccinated
One of the best ways to strengthen your immune system is by staying up to date on your vaccinations— especially during this year’s upcoming flu season. Because it’s possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, getting your flu shot will help reduce your risk of getting the flu — which will help keep your immune system healthy.
- Attend recommended health screenings
Health conditions like heart disease or type 2 diabetes can weaken your immune system. But these diseases can often be prevented — especially if the warning signs are caught early. Attending preventive care visits — even by phone or video when appropriate and available — may help your doctor catch the early signs of a disease before it causes serious health complications.
2. Eat healthy
Studies have shown that malnutrition — or a poor diet — can weaken our immune systems.1 To keep your immune system in top shape, give your body the nutrients it needs to thrive. This means eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and lean proteins — while limiting saturated fat, added sugar, and salt. Need healthy and simple recipes ideas? We’ve got you covered.
3. Exercise regularly
Maintaining a consistent workout routine can help you build strength and endurance. And when your body is strong and healthy, your immune system can run at peak performance. Just make sure not to push yourself too hard. Excessive exercise can have the opposite effect by wearing down your body, so you have less strength to fight infections. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise every week. Whether that’s a walk, online yoga class, or HIIT workout.
4. Stress less
Stress can put a strain on your immune system and your body’s ability to effectively fight disease. You can help your immune system by taking steps to control your stress levels. Activities like journaling, deep breathing, and yoga can reduce stress. And research suggests that meditating may help improve your immune system.2
5. Quit tobacco
Smoking, vaping, or using tobacco products damages your body. Tobacco use — like smoking cigarettes — may cause inflammation which can impact your immune system’s ability to do its job.3
Quitting tobacco can be tough, but there are many resources and programs available to help you.
6. Get enough sleep
Good sleep is an important part of the immune system process.4 Allowing your body the time it needs to rest can help keep your immune system healthy.
How much sleep should you get? The standard recommendation is 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night. But how long you sleep is less important than how you feel when you wake up. You should wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start your day. If you don’t, then you can explore ways to get better sleep.
The best way to give your immune system a boost is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Explore our health and wellness resources to learn more ways you can stay healthy and thrive.
1Claire D. Bourke et al., “Immune Dysfunction as a Cause and Consequence of Malnutrition,” ScienceDirect, Trends in Immunology, June 2016.
2Davd S. Black et al., “Mindfulness Meditation and the Immune System: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, January 21, 2016.
3Feifei Qiu et al., “Impacts of Cigarette Smoking on Immune Responsiveness: Up and Down or Upside Down?” Oncotarget, November 25, 2016.
4Luciana Besedovsky et al., “Sleep and Immune Function,” Pflügers Archiv European Journal of Physiology, November 2011.
Protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu
Getting the flu shot will be more important than ever this coming flu season. Make sure you know the facts.