by Vladimire Herard


As a senior, consuming fruits and vegetables, taking vitamins and minerals and eating foods rich in them, using antibiotics, practicing sound hygiene and updating flu and pneumonia vaccines go a long way towards protecting your immune system, authorities say.


In other words, eating properly, taking in dietary supplements, practicing vaccinations and keeping clean will help protect your body’s defenses against illness.


Out of the seven major systems of the human body, the immune system is among the first ones to slowly disintegrate with age. As the immune system is not as successful as before in ridding the body of dead cells when we age, cellular waste builds up and prompts the aging of other organs.


In order for seniors to live as long and as fulfilled a life as possible, the immune system must be maintained to be as efficient as it can be in warding off chronic and acute illness and boosting recoveries from injuries.


The variety of illnesses associated with aging such as arthritis, cancer, heart disease and pneumonia take place when the immune system is compromised. Research is showing that genetics controls both aging and the immune system.


Through such autoimmune diseases as arthritis, the immune system starts to attack itself as you age.


Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition


Vitamin and mineral nutrition is one of the most effective ways for seniors to guard their immune systems, especially with over-the-counter or OTC supplements. You do best to take vitamins C and D and such minerals as iron, magnesium, protein, selenium and zinc to preserve immune health.


This especially applies if you have gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease and colitis and you have low levels of minerals in your diet as a result of such illness. Additionally, you may be malnourished with vitamin and mineral depletion if you have a drinking problem or a smoking habit.


You also may have to notify your primary care or general medicine physician if you are taking mineral supplements as they may not react well to your prescribed medications for pre-existing illnesses.


Vitamin C occurs mostly in many fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus like grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges and tangerines, red peppers and sweet potatoes.


Especially for those suffering from upper respiratory problems, seniors are encouraged to increase their intake of vitamin C by taking more of the supplement itself and more fruits and vegetables. The top recommendation for taking vitamin C is between 1,000 and 3,000 milligrams daily.


Additionally, seniors can supplement their nutrition with vitamin D by taking a prescribed dosage from their primary care doctors and consuming dairy products rich in it such as milk, cheese, butter, yogurt and buttermilk and such vegetables as mushrooms.


Iron also supports the immune system by distributing oxygen throughout your body. If your cells lack oxygen, you will feel exhausted and your immune system is compromised.


Regardless of gender, seniors must obtain eight milligrams of iron per day.  You can expect to receive your daily dosage through lean beef, fortified cereal, lentils, soybeans and spinach.


Magnesium helps maintain your bones as well as your immune system, all as you age. Seniors are in danger of low levels of magnesium, which can lead to a weaker immune system.


Gender too plays a role as women aged 50 and over require 320 milligrams of magnesium and men need 420 milligrams. You can be sure to secure your daily adequate intake through almonds, halibut fish, oatmeal, potatoes and spinach.


The mineral selenium is an antioxidant helping seniors to fight against the ravages of aging caused by free radicals. Free radicals cause aging to speed up in seniors and the onset of chronic illnesses like cancer, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports.


To protect your immune system after the age of 50, you ought to obtain 55 micrograms of selenium, regardless of gender. This means you should include garlic, liver, shellfish, sunflower and tuna in your diet, all of which contain high levels.


Seniors are also asked to boost the level of zinc in their diets, particularly as part of their multivitamin intake. Zinc strengthens the immune system, helps heals wounds and keeps skin whole.


Sometimes, zinc is not ingested through healthy eating alone and some individuals can be deficient, which puts them at risk for catching pneumonia. Gender also factors into supplementation. Women aged 50 and above need eight milligrams but men require 11 milligrams.


Immune cells cannot avert disease without this mineral so you can be sure to consume zinc in the form of beef, breakfast cereals, cashews, chicken, dairy products, oysters, pork, turkey and other fowl and yogurt.


You can also increase your dosage of vitamins C, D and minerals like zinc by making and eating soup that contains all of the foods, vegetables and meats needed to protect your immune system.


An ideal soup could be a vegetable broth that includes such ingredients as carrots, garlic, onions, red peppers and winter squash.


Gaining Antibiotics and Sound Hygiene


As an older adult, if you are hospitalized for a chronic illness and a weak immune system, nurses and ancillary healthcare employees can administer antibiotics to keep you from catching pneumonia.


How you receive antibiotics depends on your age, health status and the severity of your bout of pneumonia. If your case is mild or moderate, you may be given oral antibiotics. Otherwise, if your bout is severe, you may required intravenous antibiotics.


Once you are treated and released, you can ask your primary care or general medicine doctor if you can get vaccinated for flu and pneumonia.


In the meantime, you would do well to practice sound personal hygiene. You start by washing your hands with soap and water before and after engaging in activity that may render you prone to illness.


This includes washing up before and after eating meals, before and after preparing meals, after being outdoors in general, especially for such activity as gardening, after changing a diaper, after performing housework, after using the washroom, after touching body fluids and after using a landline telephone.


Especially in the age of the COVID pandemic, seniors are advised to keep clean and disease-free. This means keeping your home clean, steering clear of outdoor crowds, requesting visitors with a cold to mask up, guarding against germs when carrying out yardwork or taking care of plants or flowers.


Updating Flu and Pneumonia Vaccines


Pneumonia is the inflammation of the lungs caused by bacterial or viral infections. Annually, five to 10 million individuals get pneumonia and between 40,000 to 70,000 die from pneumococcal diseases in the United States. Nearly one million persons are hospitalized for pneumonia caused by bacteria.


Flu and pneumonia are the fourth leading cause of death for adults over the age of 75. In fact, pneumonia is the cause of 350,000 to 620,000 hospitalizations among seniors annually. Older adults are less likely to survive a bout of pneumonia or the flu than younger ones.


Gender factors into the development of the illness. Men are 30 percent more likely to die from pneumonia than women even if its intensity is similar to theirs and this is genetically determined.


Already, seniors are already at risk for contracting pneumococcal diseases in that target the lungs, brain and blood because of age, in that bacteria already reside in their nose and threat, in that they may already have health issues and in that they may already reside in nursing homes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.


These infections can impact the entire human body. Pneumococcal infections cause pneumonia, the infection of the lung; meningitis; the infection of the lining of the brain, and; bacteremia or blood infection.


Pneumonia is caused by bacteria and these microorganisms lead to infections that can render a person to be very ill or dead. Again, if you are aged 65 and older, you are at increased risk for infection from pneumoccocal bacteria.


In fact, from age 65 to 79, your risk doubles that of adults aged 50 to 64. Even at the latter age range, you are in danger of developing pneumonia or other lung diseases if you already suffer from a variety of pre-existing conditions.


Such conditions include alcoholism and substance abuse, certain types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, kidney disease, liver disease, medication or radiation therapies that influence your immune system, organ or bone marrow transplants, sickle cell disease and spleen removal.


Additionally, the tendency to contract the flu and pneumonia is tied to smoking cigarettes as seniors who smoke are more prone to contracting lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis and then being hospitalized. Hospitalization further exposes them to illness.


As a result, seniors are urged to quit smoking as a guard against weakening the immune system and developing the flu and pneumonia. Doing so reduces the danger to normal but may take a decade to achieve.


They are even asked to avoid secondhand smoke from family members or friends who do smoke, toxic fumes, industrial smoke and air pollution because this also puts them at risk.


Symptoms include rapid breathing, chest pain near the infected lung, chills, confusion, a dry cough that produces phlegm, chronic fatigue, fever, headache, abnormal heartbeats, muscle aches, nasal discharge, nausea, sore throat, severe stomach and intestinal pain, vomiting and weakness.


Additionally, seniors are asked to take pneumonia shots or vaccines in the form of such brands as Pneumovax, a one-time shot for older adults that is covered by Medicare. Research finds that adults aged 65 and older ought to be prioritized for the shots in the case of a shortage.


The CDC states it is best to receive pneumonia vaccines in October or November of the year. Some locations may find it difficult to obtain plentiful supplies of the vaccines. As a result, those most at risk such as seniors should be vaccinated first.