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Monday June 1, 2015

RICHARD BÉLIVEAU’S COLUMN Healthy Aging: Eating well to maintain one’s immunity

We live increasingly longer, but this increased longevity is not necessarily equal to good health. According to the World Health Organisation, a person who reaches 80 years of age will lose, on average, 10 years of healthy living – caused by the strong prevalence of many chronic diseases that appear throughout aging. 
One of the factors that may adversely affect our quality of life as we age is the significant drop in our immune functions. This declined immunity is often accompanied by an increase in the frequency and seriousness of certain infectious diseases (such as the flu), as well as a weaker response to vaccinations.  This phenomenon, called “immunosenescence”, also makes seniors more susceptible to chronic diseases that are related to immune system disorders, such as cancer.   

According to recent studies, this decline in the immune function is especially prevalent when aging immune cells (lymphocytes) are exposed to low levels of essential nutrients. These observations suggest that a healthy diet could allow the body to better absorb nutrients required for an optimal cellular function, which will help in compensating the loss of lymphocyte functions – thus allowing the person to maintain a good immunity, even in old age.
Our immunity is another example of the significant influence of our lifestyle choices over our physiological functions, at every stage of our life.  The immune system losses associated with aging are not irreversible. It is possible to take action to “rejuvenate” our lymphocytes, to allow them to maintain an adequate immune response. This is especially important for men, who are subject to depleting lymphocyte functions associated with aging more quickly than women.


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