What Is a Compromised Immune System?

Ways to boost your immune system

sick woman blowing nose on couch
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Your immune system works in several ways to keep illness away. It blocks or fights potentially harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. If you have a properly-functioning immune system, your body is able to prevent these potentially damaging invaders from causing illness.

Having a compromised immune system (also called being immunosuppressed) means that your body cannot produce the same level of immunity to invading organisms.

 With a compromised immune system, your body does not have the ability to defend against illness or medical challenges. Conditions that may result in a compromised immune system include heart disease, diabetes, cancer, other chronic illnesses, or an acute illness that seems to last for a long period of time. In addition, some medications can suppress your immune system.

If you have a compromised immune system you may be at risk of contracting an infectious illness that can make you very sick or increase your risk of death.

Those at High Risk for a Compromised Immune System

The CDC defines high-risk more specifically as adults and children who have chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, hepatic, hematological, neurologic, neuromuscular, or metabolic disorders; adults and children who have immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by HIV), and residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities.

These groups are at higher risk for infectious public health problems such as influenza so that patients and caregivers are recommended to get flu shots. They may also be at greater risk for resistant infections, such as those that are hospital acquired, like MRSA and C.Diff. If you have a condition that is likely to compromise your immune system, your doctor should consider more tactics and recommendations to help keep these problems at bay.

What is recommended for you will depend on the condition that is impacting your immune system, as some attack one part of your system and not another (such as HIV). Your body may or may not respond fully to immunizations or natural immunity from having had a disease earlier in life.

Ways to Boost Your Immune System

The best way to protect your immune system is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. General good health guidelines, like these below, can protect the body from weakening:

  • Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Practice stress reduction techniques, such as yoga and meditation.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly, especially before every meal.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  • Get eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Control your blood pressure.
  • Take steps to avoid infection.
  • Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group.

The Impact of Age on Immunity

As you age you become more susceptible to contracting diseases. If your immunity is low, you become even more at risk for contracting infections, inflammatory diseases, and cancer.

Many studies have concluded that the population over age 65 is much more likely to contract infectious diseases.

In fact, respiratory infections, influenza, and pneumonia are leading causes of death in people over the age of 65 across the globe.

Source:

How to Boost Your Immune System. Harvard Health Publications. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system.

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