Looking for ways to stay healthy this winter? Here are some tips to lower your chances of catching the flu or a cold in the coming months:
- Get Your Vitamin D. Last year, a large analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 40 percent more likely to have had a recent cold or flu than people with the highest D levels. Sunlight is the best source of D, but most of us avoid the sun or wear sunblock to reduce the risk for skin. Please call Well-U to have your levels checked.
- Go for Color. Think blueberries, raspberries, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and red bell peppers. Fruits and vegetables are packed with anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory substances and other nutrients that boost the immune system and fight viruses. We need three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit each day for optimum health.
- Bring on the Broccoli. The immune system tends to weaken as we age, making us vulnerable to disease and infection. But in a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, UCLA researchers reported that a chemical in broccoli and other cruciferous veggies—such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnips and kale, may counter this effect, keeping our immune system robust.
- Eat Yogurt. Live, active yogurt cultures contain probiotics. These so-called good bacteria help boost the immune system, warding off flu and other illnesses.
- Choose Whole Grains. They contain selenium, which keeps the immune system in good working order and protects against viruses like H1N1.
- Don’t Cut Calories. Researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing, have found that cutting back on calories during flu season could make you vulnerable to the flu. According to the researchers, you need the extra caloric reserves so your body is better able to fight off the virus.
- Wash Your Hands. It sounds obvious, but lots of people don’t do this. Frequent hand washing is an inexpensive and effective way to stay germ-free. What you may not know: The flu virus can linger on hard surfaces, like computer keyboards, phones and doorknobs. If you touch an infected surface and then your eyes, nose and mouth (see next tip), you can introduce the flu virus (and the cold virus, too) into your body. The CDC recommends scrubbing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If water isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand cleanser.
- Don’t Touch. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth. Enough said.
- Be a Good Citizen. If you have the flu, keep it to yourself. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze using the crook of your elbow. And if you get sick, stay home from work.
- Exercise. It may boost the immune system, warding off infections. A study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, which followed 641 men and women ages 20 to 70 for one year, reported that regular physical activity reduced the annual risk of upper respiratory tract infection by about 25 percent.
- Chill Out. In a 2005 study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, Australian researchers discovered that when you’re stressed, your body releases large amounts of a hormone called neuropeptide Y, which can keep your immune system from working properly.
- Try a Massage. According to researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, people who received a 45-minute Swedish massage had a measurable increase in lymphocytes, white blood cells that help defend the body against disease. Schedule your Massage today with Well U.
Submitted by Cindy Novak, Wellness coordinator.