New Year’s is a great place to draw a line in the sand. Everyone feels an almost heady potential as we bravely look into the New Year.
It practically begs us to reinvent ourselves. Seeing as we are in the midst of winter, surrounded by coughs and colds aplenty, your immune system suddenly becomes a priority.
Immunity is great. I will happily take a Presidential pardon, a flu shot or a diet of blueberries to fortify me against trouble.
Your immune system is your vigilance against that hostile world, and some surprising things have great effect on how easily you get or avoid what I call the “Christmas Crud.”
The first thing on the list is start that new exercise program. A 30-minute walk does the trick, so don’t feel the need to over-commit. That walk will strengthen your immune system.
There are plenty of other reasons to take a walk; your blood pressure and cholesterol and stress are all lowered. It’s protection from heart disease and makes diabetes much easier to control.
Another thing that will improve your health and help your immune system is to lose some weight. Fat has traditionally been thought of as merely excess baggage, heavy to carry around, but not a very biologically active tissue. That was even thought of as a reason why it is hard to lose weight.
But the more we study fat, the more we see its influence on the working of all your systems. Fat is hormonally responsive and influences how your body handles sugar among other things.
One thing fat definitely affects is the immune system. Your fat may be turning your immune system against you (you always secretly knew fat was evil). Fat cells secrete inflammatory chemicals, which brings to mind autoimmune disease, where the immune system runs amuck. So exercise and weight loss are important, plus they sort of fit together anyway.
Now we need to work on another important aspect – your attitude.
Depression weakens the spirit and the immune system. Social isolation is associated with all manners of health risks, the structure and function of the immune system among them.
The interesting thing is one of the most effective things you can do to fight depression is exercise. That works as well as most antidepressants. Fix the depression and the social isolation will improve. Fix the depression by exercising.
Every year, most of us make a promise to ourselves to become more active. If you’re returning those unwanted Christmas gifts, here’s an idea – maybe walk to the mall!
Have a great New Year and take care.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
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