Chronic diseases —including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer— account for some of the most common health problems in the United States, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Having a chronic disease weakens the person’s immune system and puts them at a higher risk of developing severe complications from infections such as the flu and COVID-19.
Many of these chronic diseases are preventable, as they’re linked to poor diet and lifestyle choices, including tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, and inadequate physical activity.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to persist, there are several strategies that can help boost your immune system, help decrease the risk of severe illness, and may help prevent COVID-19 infection.
Stay up-to-date on vaccinations. Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to help you safely develop immunity to disease. This lowers your chances of getting certain diseases and suffering from their complications.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet. A healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods is vital for a strong immune system. The vitamins and minerals within fruits and vegetables play a role in boosting your immune system, too.
Get enough sleep. Your body needs rest to recover from everyday stress, and lack of sleep negatively affects the immune system. Try to establish a sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and getting at least seven hours of sleep each night.
Exercise regularly. Exercise increases your resilience so you can fight off infection. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, or 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. Remember that some activity each day is much better than none at all. For more information about how much physical activity is needed for adults, see the CDC recommendations.
Limit alcohol and quit smoking. If you smoke, find support by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW. If you drink, do so in moderation. Tobacco and alcohol both negatively impact your immune system and can contribute to complications if you do get sick.
Find ways to minimize stress. Develop good coping mechanisms to combat stress. Try walking, going outside, meditating, and focusing on doing things you enjoy.
Wash your hands frequently and especially before eating or touching your face.
Consider vitamin supplementation. Vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Zinc, play an important role in supporting a healthy immune system. Adequate nutrition can supply the recommended intake of vitamins and minerals, but some people may benefit from supplementation. For information on the recommended intake of vitamins and minerals, talk to your healthcare provider.
Information Vitamin D
Vitamin D can be vital in keeping you strong and healthy. Vitamin D deficiency is common; check with your healthcare provider to see if you should add a Vitamin D supplement to your daily routine.
The health benefits of Vitamin D:
- Boosts your immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses
- Promotes calcium absorption and bone health
- Reduces inflammation
- Assists nerve function throughout your body
Foods that naturally contain Vitamin D:
- Fatty fish – salmon, trout, or tuna
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
Other foods with added Vitamin D:
- Cow, soy, oat, and almond milk
- Many breakfast cereals, yogurt, margarine, orange juice, and soy products
The body also makes Vitamin D when it is exposed directly to sunlight.