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 your 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.
Sex doesn't just make you feel good -- studies show it's good for your health, too. Researchers found that people middle-aged and older who had frequent sex were in better overall health than those who had sex less often.
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 pressure and cholesterol levels, and healthier hearts. Dog can help improve children’s immune system development and make them less likely to get allergies.
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 ties. Want to broaden your social network? You can volunteer, take a class, or joini a group that interests you. And be sure to nurture the bonds you already have.
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 increase your optimism, take time to savor the things you enjoy, look for the silver lining in difficult situations, and try not to dwell on negative thoughts.
A true belly laugh might be good for you. While there's some evidence that laughter may help boost our immune system, overall research results have been mixed. One group of researchers found that people who laughed out loud at funny videos had higher immune function after watching the clips. But more studies are needed to prove whether laughter actually helps prevent or lessen illness.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help you get a healthy dose of antioxidants. These substances found in foods help can 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.
If you think your diet needs a bost, consider taking a multivitamin. A daily multivitamin can help your body get all 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.
Processed foods such as 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 additives and chemicals that may not be good for your body. When you choose these foods over more nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, you risk depleting your body of essential nutrients.
Many people take herbs or supplements to improve their overall health. Some supplements have been shown to affect the immune system. But more well-designed studies are needed to learn their beneficial effects on humans. These include garlic, ginseng, milk thistle, astragalus, and probiotics such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about which supplements may be good for you.
One simple way to strengthen your immune system is by exercising. Getting regular exercise can also reduce stress and help lower your risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. You get the most benefit when you exercise at a moderate level a few times a week. Any type of movement is helpful, including bicycling, walking, yoga, swimming, or playing golf.
Without enough sleep, your immune system may not have the resources it needs to fight off illness. Most adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep each night. You can help yourself to a more restful sleep by keeping a regular schedule, getting exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, relaxing before bedtime, and keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
Drinking alcohol is part of our culture. Many people drink at meals and at parties as a way to socialize and celebrate. But drinking too much alcohol can weaken your immune system and cause you to get sick more often. To minimize risk, men should have no more than two drinks per day. Women should not have more than one drink per day.
Here's another reason to give up smoking -- it weakens your immune system. Even if you're just an occasional smoker, you're still at risk. According to the U.S. surgeon general, even low levels of exposure to tobacco can cause health problems, including heart attack, stroke, and asthma. If you need help quitting, talk with your doctor.
One of the easiest ways to help your immune system fight illness is to wash your hands regularly. It's also one of the best ways to keep yourself and others healthy. Be sure to use soap and clean, running water, and wash for at least 20 seconds. If you don't have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
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