Given all that’s going around, keeping our immune system in tip-top shape is high priority these days. The good news: You can take years off your immunity, according to Mark Hyman, M.D. Indeed, some folks in their 80s have immune systems as robust as 40-year-olds! Here, Dr. Hyman’s best strategies…
Take a deep breath.
Chronic stress speeds immune cell aging by up to 31 percent. That’s why Dr. Hyman recommends taking a minute to breathe deeply first thing in the morning, before meals and at bedtime. Doing so eases stress and boosts immune cell counts by 68 percent. “Deep abdominal breathing engages the vagus nerve, a major relaxation point, to deactivate the stress response,” he says. Breathe in through your nose for five counts, then exhale through your mouth for five counts.
Send a card.
Jotting down New Year’s well wishes shores up your body’s defenses. Over the years, the body’s disease-fighting white blood cell production can slow. But 60 seconds of an activity that uses fine motor skills, like writing, makes cells 25 percent more active, Stanford scientists say.
Snack on seeds.
While a zinc deficiency speeds immune system aging, German scientists found that when the immune cells of 70-somethings received ample zinc, they produced as much disease-fighting proteins as cells of 28-year-olds. Dr. Hyman recommends foods rich in zinc, like pumpkin seeds and cashews, plus taking 30 mg. of zinc citrate daily.
Make snow angels.
Sneaking in 30 minutes of easy activity daily combats the inner inflammation that ages the immune system. In fact, British scientists say older folks who exercised regularly had immune systems that produced as many infection-busting T cells as those 20 years younger.
Crunch on crudités.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are rich in sulfurophanes, plant compounds that help the body clear out old, damaged cells and make way for new cells, Dr. Hyman says. Plus, these compounds boost the production of virus-fighting glutathione. Dr. Hyman recommends 1½ cups of these veggies daily.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.