Because COVID-19 is a new strain of virus that has not been experienced before, the body’s defense system (immune response) has in many cases, been caught off-guard. Now a team of researchers at the University of Melbourne have been able to map out the immune response in a person who mounted an effective “1-2 punch” and quickly recovered from the infection. This is an important step in helping to understand why some people have only mild symptoms and are more readily able to defeat the virus than others (notwithstanding underlying medical conditions that impair the immune response).
In addition to social distancing (minimum of 6 feet apart), washing hands frequently with soap and water (minimum of 20. seconds) and keeping hands away from the face, listed below are additional measures you can take to boost your immune system and (hopefully) keep your symptoms mild in the event that the virus sneaks up and attacks you.
- Ramp up on vital Nutrients: There is no question that a healthy diet containing an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals (vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6 and B12, folic acid, beta carotene, iron, selenium, and zinc) are critically important for maintaining a vibrant immune system. It is especially important for men and women over the age of 50 to consume foods enriched in these vitamins and minerals because 1 out of every 3 over this age are deficient in these nutrients. This may in part explain why some older folks are having more difficulty fighting this virus, even in the absence of underlying medical conditions as new reports suggest.
- Walk Daily: While many parts of the world have been temporarily placed on (varying degrees of) lockdown, the majority permit engagement of non-group related outdoor activities. Exercises such as walking, jogging, hiking and biking are not only important for maintaining cardiovascular health and mental sanity but also because they boost immunity. Specifically, moderate activities such as brisk walking (e.g., 20-minute per mile pace, 30-60 minutes daily) may not only reduce severity of the viral infection but also improve time to recovery.
- Downsize your Stress levels: Striving to reduce our stress levels during this crisis, will help recovery efforts. That is because high stress levels release proteins that not only raise risk of a heart attack and sudden cardiovascular death but also impair our ability to fight infections…including arch enemy, COVID-19. To downsize your stress levels (in addition to good nutrition and daily exercise), focus on restful sleeping (see my previous blog on “how to sleep like a baby”), listen to soothing and joyful music and enjoy time with family and loved ones. Heck, we may never have as much concentrated time (quantity +/- quality) with each other again!
Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Epidemiology & Public at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA. He serves on the American Heart Association Leadership Council and the American College of Cardiology Nutrition Workgroup. His latest book is “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” published by Penguin Random House.