Keeping the immune system strong and healthy plays a vital role in preventing illnesses such as a cold or the flu virus. In order to maintain a healthy immune system, the body has to get the proper amount of sleep. The recommended amount of sleep each night is between seven to eight hours. Lack of sleep and/or excessive sleep has been linked to weight gain and other health problems.
Exercise is also key to maintaining a strong immune system. Even moderate exercise can help boost the immune system. Try to sustain an elevated heart rate for at least twenty minutes, three times a week. Exercise also helps to manage and decrease stress levels; and decreased stress levels mean increased health benefits.
A proper diet, full of vitamin and mineral-rich foods also plays a vital role in boosting the immune system. Avoid processed foods—foods with three or more ingredients you cannot pronounce are usually not good options. Maintain a “colorful” diet, with lots of greens. Foods known to help boost the immune system include yogurt, almonds, berries, cabbage, mushrooms, grapefruits, spinach, garlic and tea. However, one of the best defenses against the flu is the flu vaccine. We recommend a yearly vaccine for everyone except those under the age of six months, and we highly recommend for those over 50, children, pregnant women and those who are chronically ill.
Understanding the proper diet, exercise and sleep routines to maintain a strong immune system and good health can be overwhelming. Our area is fortunate as Cone Health has an exceptional network of healthcare providers dedicated to providing care to individuals in the community during cold and flu season.
Dr. Kehinde Eniola is an assistant professor of family medicine with Cone Health Family Medicine Center. Eniola is a 2006 graduate of Obafemi Awolowo College of Health Sciences, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria. She completed her residency at New York Medical Center, St. Joseph Hospital. She is currently enrolled in the public health leadership program at Gilling School of Global Public Health UNC-Chapel Hill.