Authored By Dr. Mahesh Mylarappa, Consultant & Head of Emergency, Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal, Medical Partners to Columbia Pacific Communities
Aging is a series of processes that begin with life and continue throughout the life cycle. It represents the closing period in the lifespan, a time when the individual looks back on life, lives on past accomplishments and begins to finish off his life course. Adjusting to the changes that accompany old age requires that an individual is flexible and develops new coping skills to adapt to the changes that are common to this time in their lives (Warnick, 1995).
Seniors are more susceptible to COVID-19. This is because seniors have low immunity due to age and also because they have comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac diseases that make them more vulnerable to getting infected.
However, they can take necessary precautions to safeguard themselves. Most importantly they should be isolated and follow certain precautions which includes maintaining safe distance, wearing a face mask, frequent hand washing and avoiding touching the face. Apart from these, inculcating good practices such as maintaining hygiene, eating fresh food, keeping oneself hydrated, having supplemental nutrition such as green leafy vegetables, fruits, eggs etc. It is also important to take care of comorbid conditions mainly blood pressure and blood sugar levels, regularising their medicine intake, follow up with regular doctor and also keeping a check on symptoms and taking care of them immediately with the help of their regular doctor.
Moreover, diet plays a significant role as it boosts the immunity and prevents getting infected and in case infected, a healthy diet helps the body fight and prevents worsening. Most importantly, balancing the diet with adequate mix of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and other nutrients should be done with understanding of our daily food intake. This means including the right vegetables and fruits. Eggs and meat including chicken and fish can provide adequate amount of nutrients and can be planned weekly as per requirements. A personalised chart can be prepared with the help of a dietician. Apart from these, there are supplemental nutrients in the form of medications present in the market. A balanced diet with adequate hydration would be a key to boosting the immunity and staying safe.
Apart from diet, the most important thing that supplements to immunity is physical activity in the form of walks, jog and exercises. This can be done for a period of 20 minutes daily which increases the circulation in the body and also helps in regularising the blood pressure and blood sugar. Physical activities significantly boosts the immunity along with proper diet and helps in fighting infections and recovery when infected. Yoga, meditation, Pranayama are all very disciplined practices and has always been an advantage to many who practice to keep them fit and healthy. It influences both the physical and mental health positively and also helps in the overall wellness of the individuals.
Therefore, along with physical activity it is best to practice meditation for a few minutes on a regular basis. Activities such as listening to music, talking to friends, watching soothing television programmes, taking a short walk in the garden can help in keeping the mind calm and reducing anxiety thus, helps in boosting the immunity and playing a major role in being fit and healthy.
In the present pandemic situation the elderly population is at high risk and those with underlying health issues should understand the need for a balanced and healthy lifestyle with strict adherence to the precautionary measures. This along with importance to diet, physical activity and mental well-being helps in improving the immunity and staying safe and healthy.