A Good Offense Is Your Best Defense
Even in normal times, as the weather changes many of us think about strengthening our defenses against the common cold, flu, and other seasonal illnesses. These days, the topic of maintaining a healthy immune system is more top-of-mind than it has ever been.
We recently spoke with Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RDN, Immediate Past Chair of the Lifestyle Council for the American Heart Association and Evan Pugh University Professor of Nutritional Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University, to ask her how the immune system works, and what we can do to keep ours in tip-top shape.
Make Nutritious Choices
“Good nutrition aligns with good immune health. There is so much you can do by taking charge of your lifestyle,” says Dr. Kris-Etherton. Many immune-supporting nutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium and vitamins A, C and D can be found in food. Integrate leafy greens, citrus fruit and seafood into your diet to fuel your immune system. Also key: Stay hydrated with water and other low-calorie beverages.
Exercise offers many benefits, including improved heart health, blood pressure and weight. As our body’s systems are all interconnected, these benefits work together to also support our immune health. Dr. Kris-Etherton reminds us that “regular moderate exercise can help reduce the length and severity of upper respiratory infections, like the common cold.”
Avoid Harmful Habits
While taking positive steps for immune health is a good move, avoiding harmful habits is just as important. Too much alcohol or too little sleep are just a few examples highlighting how unhealthy habits that can impact overall health also directly impact immune health.
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.