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10 tips to toughen up your immune system

Every day, foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses and toxins attack your body. Your immune system defends your body against the onslaught, but when your system is weakened, your body has a harder time fighting infection.

To ward off disease, you need to keep your immune system—a network of blood cells, chemicals and organs that work together—functioning in peak condition. Follow these strategies to help your immune system deliver its knockout punch:

  1. Eat a nutritious diet. Poor nutrition prevents your body from building enough immune cells. A well-balanced diet supplies nutrients to fight free radicals—the harmful by-products of your cells’ metabolism that damage your DNA, suppress your immune system and contribute to disease. Outside sources like cigarette smoke and pollution produce free radicals that can invade your system, too.
  2. Get regular exercise. Exercise helps your body fight disease better by knocking off unwanted pounds, reducing stress and improving cholesterol levels. Regular brisk walking—as little as 30 minutes, five days a week—and moderate resistance exercise give your immune system a boost.
  3. Get adequate rest. Sleep deprived? You may be at risk for obesity and depression, which take a toll on your immune system. Too great a sleep debt also increases your risk for high blood pressure and diabetes.
  4. Reduce stress. Chronic stress is a health buster. To quiet your mind, try meditation, yoga or tai chi. Cuddling with a loved one, petting your dog or taking a nature walk can help, too.
  5. Don’t smoke. Smoking makes it harder for you to fight infection and inflicts damage on your entire body. Illnesses last longer and are more serious if you smoke.
  6. Drink alcohol moderately, if at all. Drinking excessively is toxic to your body, putting you at risk for liver and pancreas damage as well as cancer. If you drink, keep it to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
  7. Lose excess pounds. Overweight people with high cholesterol who exercise and eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet not only slim down and reduce their total cholesterol, but boost their immune system, too. Losing as few as five to 10 pounds may do the trick.
  8. Get immunized. A vaccination can’t compensate for a weakened immune system but can help reduce your chances of contracting diseases like influenza and pneumonia. Ask your doctor about immunizations you may need.
  9. Get your vitamins. Food is the best source when it comes to supplying your body with disease-fighting nutrients. But a daily multivitamin can be a smart backup in case you’re deficient in any essential nutrient.
  10. Laugh. Laughter reduces stress hormones and causes the part of your nervous system that regulates heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and other functions to relax. So rent a funny movie or share a joke with a friend to counter stress that can weaken your immune system.


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