If you feel like you catch every cold or bug that flits through town, quit your sniffling, hold on to your hand sanitizer and find out how to improve your immunity.
According to David Katz, MD, MPH, director of the Yale University Prevention Center, everything from your hormones to your heart affects how well you fight infections and disease. “You can’t have a healthy immune system unless you have a healthy circulatory system, because that’s how nutrients get to the bone marrow where immune cells are made,” he says.
Dr. Katz’s short list for killer immunity: stress control, plenty of sleep, physical activity and balanced nutrition. “If you’re not taking care of your health, and you change that, you’ll see an immediate effect on your immune system,” he says. Case in point: a 2008 study in The Lancet, in which men with prostate cancer were put on a three-month healthy living program. “Their genes and their risk for cancer progression changed,” Dr. Katz says. What’s more, a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that a healthy diet and weight, regular exercise and never smoking are together associated with an 80 percent risk reduction in developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
A strong immune system doesn’t just determine your susceptibility to illness. It also determines how long you’ll live and how well you will age. That’s right: Your fountain of youth is right here.