In elderly adults, the flu or common cold can often lead to complications. Lifestyle changes, maintaining regular vaccinations, and improving personal hygiene habits can reduce the risk of illness.

Colds, flu, and other infections can lead to secondary conditions like pneumonia, bronchitis, or other infections. If you have a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes, a respiratory illness can worsen these.

Because of this, it’s important to make healthy choices to strengthen your immune system and reduce the likelihood of illness.

Follow these nine tips to stay healthy year-round.

Physical activity is an immune system booster. The more you move, the more your body can fight infection.

The activity you partake in doesn’t have to be strenuous. Low-impact exercises are effective, too.

You might consider biking, walking, swimming, or low impact aerobics. If you can, engage in moderate-intensity exercise for about 20 to 30 minutes a day to reach the recommended total of 150 minutes a week. Also, strengthen your muscles by lifting weights or doing yoga.

Learn more about the effect of exercise on the immune system.

Some supplements help support a healthy immune system. For example, vitamin D plays a vital role in immune function and can reduce the risk of ICU hospitalization from COVID-19 infection.

Other supplements that can help maintain good health in older adults include:

Before taking a supplement, always ask your doctor if it’s safe, especially if you’re taking a prescription medication.

Discover 15 supplements with immune-boosting effects.

A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean meats can support overall good health and support the immune system.

Fruits and vegetables are often good sources of antioxidants, which protect your cells from damage and keep your body healthy. Meanwhile, protein helps maintain muscle and bone mass and supports immune function. Protein consumption is particularly important for older adults to support strength, mobility, and quality of life.

You should also limit your consumption of sugary, salty, and fatty foods. Reducing alcohol intake can also help support good health into old age.

Learn more about how dietary needs change as people age.

Washing your hands regularly is another excellent way to stay healthy year-round. Viruses, including COVID-19 can live on surfaces for several days. It’s possible to become ill if you touch a virus-covered surface and contaminate your hands, and then touch your face.

Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your nose, face, and mouth with your hands.

You can also protect yourself using antibacterial hand sanitizer when you cannot wash your hands. Also, disinfect surfaces around your home and workstation frequently.

Follow our 7 steps to proper handwashing here.

Chronic stress increases your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can disrupt different functions in your body, including your immune system.

To reduce stress, increase physical activity, get plenty of sleep, set reasonable expectations for yourself, and explore relaxing enjoyable activities.

Not only can sleep reduce your stress level, but sleep is how your body repairs itself. For this reason, getting an adequate amount of sleep can result in a stronger immune system, making it easier for your body to fight off viruses.

Sleep is also important as you age because it can improve memory and concentration. Aim for at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Getting annual vaccinations is another way to stay healthy throughout the year. If you’re 65 and older, discuss getting a high dose or adjuvant flu vaccine with your doctor.

Flu season is between October and May in the United States. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be effective, and it reduces the risk of the flu by 40–60% when the vaccine strains match the circulating strains.

All people over 6 months of age should receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Studies show that vaccination can significantly reduce the risk of severe symptoms.

Scheduling a yearly checkup can also keep you healthy. Always speak with your doctor if you have concerns about your health.

Conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure can go undetected. Regular physical examinations will enable your doctor to diagnose any problems early. Getting early treatment may prevent long-term complications.

Another way to protect yourself year-round is to avoid being close to people who are sick. This is easier said than done. But if there’s a flu outbreak in your area, limit contact with people who aren’t feeling well and avoid crowded areas until conditions improve.

If you must go out, protect yourself by wearing a face mask. If you’re caring for someone with the flu, wear a face mask and gloves, and wash your hands frequently.

The flu and other viruses can be dangerous as you become older. You can’t prevent all illnesses, but a proactive approach can strengthen your immune system.

A strong immune system can keep you healthier and less susceptible to illnesses throughout the year.