Some stress can be a good thing. It's how your body prepares for a challenge, like giving a presentation. But a steady stream of stress can be bad for your health. Studies show it can even weaken your immune system, which helps you fight off disease and illness. How do you reduce stress? Say no to things that make you worried or anxious. Take the time to relax and do things you enjoy.
Enjoy Regular Sex
Sex doesn't just make you feel good. Studies show it's a sign of good health. Researchers found a link between frequent sex and the presence of immunoglobulin, a protein that helps ward off the common cold.
Get a Pet
There's a reason dogs are known as "man's best friend." Dogs and other pets aren’t just good companions. They can also get us out to exercise and improve our health. Studies have found that people with pets have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and healthier hearts. Dog can help improve children’s immune system development and make them less likely to get allergies.
Build a Strong Social Network
We all know friends are important, but strong social ties can also have a big effect on your health. A recent study found that people with healthy relationships are likely to outlive those with poor social links. Want to broaden your social network? You can volunteer, take a class, or join a group that interests you. And be sure to nurture the bonds you already have.
Keep a Positive Attitude
Good thoughts can give your immune system a healthy boost. One study of law students found that when they felt optimistic, their immune systems were stronger. To brighten your outlook, take time to savor the things you enjoy, look for the silver lining in difficult situations, and try not to dwell on negative thoughts.
Have a Laugh
A true belly laugh might be good for you. While there's some evidence that laughter may help boost your immune system, overall research results have been mixed. One study found that people who laughed out loud at funny videos had higher immune function after watching the clips. But more work is needed to prove whether laughter actually helps prevent or lessen illness.
Eat Your Antioxidants
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help you get a healthy dose of antioxidants. These substances found in foods help protect your cells from free radicals, molecules that can damage cells. To get a wide range of antioxidants, choose fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors, like oranges, green peppers, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries, carrots, watermelon, papaya, leafy greens, and cantaloupe.
Take Your Vitamins
If you think your diet needs a boost, consider taking a multivitamin. A daily multivitamin can provide the building blocks of a healthy immune system. Some nutrients that may be especially important for immune system health include selenium, vitamins A, C, D, and E, zinc, and magnesium.
Avoid Empty Calories
Processed treats like fast foods, snack foods, candy, and soda don't provide much in the way of vitamins, fiber, or other nutrients. And they often contain other chemicals that aren’t good for your body. Choose these foods over vegetables, fruits, and whole grains too often and you’ll deprive your body of the nutrients it needs.
Consider Herbs and Supplements
Many people take herbs or supplements to improve their overall health. Some of these products can help your immune system. These include garlic, ginseng, milk thistle, astragalus, and probiotics like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about which supplements may be good for you.
Keep Your Body Moving
Exercise is a simple way to strengthen your immune system. It can also reduce stress and make you less likely to get osteoporosis, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. You get the most benefit from about a half hour of moderate activity every day. Any type of movement can help, whether you ride a bike, walk, do yoga, swim, or even play golf.
Get a Good Night's Sleep
Without enough sleep, your immune system won’t have the resources it needs to fight off illness. Most adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. How do you get more restful sleep? Keep a regular schedule, get some exercise, avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, relax before bedtime, and keep your bedroom cool.
Alcohol is part of our culture. Many people drink at meals and at parties as a way to socialize and celebrate. But overdo it and you can weaken your immune system and cause you to get sick more often. How much is too much for your immune system? More than two drinks a day for men and more than one for women.
Kick the Nicotine Habit
Here's another reason to give up smoking: It weakens your immune system. Even if you don’t smoke all that often, you’re still more likely to have health problems -- like heart attack, stroke, and asthma -- than people who don’t light up. If you need help to quit, talk to your doctor.
Wash Your Hands
One easy way to help your immune system fight illness is to wash your hands often. It also helps keep you and the people you come in contact with healthy. Use soap and clean, running water, and wash for at least 20 seconds. If you don't have access to soap and water, choose an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.