Good health includes a healthy immune system

SU Health Services

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, and on, we continue to have opportunities to make good choices to improve our health. Many people have received a COVID vaccine, others are cooking more meals at home, or spending more time exercising. All three reduce risk for severe COVID-19 illness. 

Think of your body as a system, where each of the parts work together for your body to function. When one part of the system is not working properly, the other systems feel the effect, and may struggle to maintain normal function. For instance, high blood sugars cause the body to store the excess sugar as fat in your liver, which can lead to liver disease. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugars increase risk for heart disease and strokes. Being overweight or obese can raise your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. See the circle here? Just like these conditions, your immune system functions at its best when all the other systems are working in harmony. This complex and wonderful system that makes up our bodies can be tuned up with just a few adjustments. Here are some of the choices you can make in your daily life to optimize your health and support your immune system. 

Get vaccinated

Since the first COVID vaccine became available last December, the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) has received full FDA approval for ages 16 and up, as well as Emergency Use Authorization for children ages 5-15. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have also received Emergency Use Authorization for use in adults 18 years and older and are soon expected to receive full FDA approval. Alongside these developments, the FDA and CDC have approved booster doses to give additional protection as the pandemic continues. In the early months, these vaccines were rolled out to only the most at risk groups for severe COVID-19, but now they are all widely available to anyone in these age groups, free of charge. 

Lose weight 

Losing as little as 5% of your body weight can improve blood sugar, reduce fatty liver, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. There are many diets out there that have been shown to help, including the Mediterranean Diet and the D.A.S.H. Diet. Both are low in saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature like lard, butter, and beef fat), and high in fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated fats (from olive oil, avocados, nuts, beans and fish). The D.A.S.H. Diet also includes lowering your sodium. A balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables will have plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber needed to support a healthy body and immune system. 

Exercise daily

“Use it or lose it” they say. In this case, that means muscle. Even your blood vessels are lined with muscles, and they need exercise too. Getting your body moving for at least 30 minutes a day can lower blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and lead to even more weight loss. The muscles you gain while exercising can help your body continue to function better even after the exercise is over. Even while you’re sitting or sleeping!

Quality sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep (7-9 hours per night for adults) on a consistent schedule improves mood, and decreases the body’s stress hormones, which in turn lowers blood pressure, and blood sugar. Things you can do to get a better night’s sleep include:

  • Stay on schedule, with the same wake up time every day.
  • Turn off technology and screens an hour before bedtime.
  • Set up your room to be dark and quiet during your sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol. It may make you drowsy, but it lowers sleep quality.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have sleeping difficulty.

Quit smoking

The harms of smoking are well known, and can affect all parts of the body, not just the lungs. Much of the damage from smoking can even be reversed, so it’s never too late to quit. Help with quitting is free, just reach out to www.coquitline.org, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, or contact a healthcare provider. 

We know that underlying health conditions like obesity, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease and smoking all increase risk for severe COVID-19 illness, so doing what you can to prevent or control these with a healthy lifestyle is so important. Set a goal and take a step toward better health. There’s no better time to get started!

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