Healthy Immune Systems
Fall is fast approaching – school starting, shorter days, but also cold and flu season. Coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our bodies will be working in overdrive to keep us healthy. How can we best build up our immune systems to function their highest? The biggest factor: lead a healthy lifestyle.
1. Don’t smoke. Cold, flu, and COVID-19 are all respiratory illnesses. When you smoke you compromise your respiratory system, specifically your lungs. They have less capacity to fight off infection since the mucosal membranes are damaged from the chronic smoke inhalation and chemicals – this mucus helps trap the organisms causing the illness before it gets into cells. Also, when you do get sick and you smoke, your lungs have less reserve and you become sicker and for longer. If you want to quit we have free “Quit kits” at the KCDHU office – call us at 475-2582 or stop by to receive one!
2. Eat a healthy diet – meaning a diet high in fruits and vegetables. These foods have the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Taking supplements is fine, but your body better processes and utilizes the nutrients found naturally in foods.
3. Exercise. If you want to only do one thing to improve your health, exercising would be it. Simple things such as walking around the block or chair yoga can have profound impacts on your health. Exercising improves cardiovascular health, decreases blood pressure, releases endorphins to improve overall mood, and can be an outlet for decreasing stress.
4. Get adequate sleep. Aim for eight hours, more if you don’t feel well. Rest and sleep help the body repair and recover.
5. Minimize stress – specifically chronic (long term) stress (job, family, friend daily stress). There are plenty of free apps for your phone for mindfulness activities and meditations. Seems like an easy task: “Well don’t be stressed” - but it oftentimes is much harder than that. If you need help, know who/where to go. A good place to start is if your employer has an Employee Assistance Program. Otherwise a good resource for ND residents is www.behavioralhealth.nd.gov.
6. Wash your hands. With soap and water. For at least 20 seconds. Keep hand sanitizer in your car or purse.
7. Drink water. Stay hydrated. It will keep your mucous membranes moist and intact, providing an adequate barrier and defense against microorganisms.
8. Consider vaccination. Vaccines provide your immune system with the blueprint on how to fight specific illnesses. Building up your immune system in other ways will help tremendously to have overall good health but cannot match the specificity of having the immune response for a specific disease. We still offer weekly COVID-19 vaccinations and will begin offering flu vaccine when we receive our doses in September.
All these items seem easy – however really think about how many you accomplish as well as the others around you. Change doesn’t have to happen overnight – pick one thing and focus on it. When that becomes easy, incorporate another and so on. Health promotion and keeping the community healthy is what we do. If you have questions on any services or need us for anything – reach out to us at 475-2582. We’d love to hear from you.