Regardless of season, harmful bacteria and viruses are all around and capable of being spread all year long. In order to keep fend away potential illnesses and infections that can prevent you from living your day-to-day life, it is important to be diligent about keeping your body healthy.
Thankfully, keeping yourself healthy is much simpler than it may appear, especially with the following eight simple steps to follow throughout the year.
8 simple steps to keep yourself healthy
1. Wash your hands (correctly!)
As always, the number one way to keep yourself healthy all year long is to wash your hands. Times when you should ensure you’re washing your hands when you may come into contact with germs, such as (1):
• Before, during, and after preparing food
• Before eating food
• After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
• After using the restroom
• After touching discarded waste or garbage
And also, make sure you follow the recommended hand washing regimen (that actually kills germs and bacteria) (1):
1. Wet your hands
2. Lather your hands with soap (including the backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails)
3. Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds
4. Rinse your hands with warm water
5. Dry hands
2. Keep your surroundings clean
Similarly to the washing hands, regularly cleaning surfaces you come in contact with on a regular basis is important to keep yourself healthy. Frequently touched surfaces and itemsharbor harmful germs and bacteria with the potential to make you, or others, sick.
Places like bathrooms and offices should be cleaned and sanitized regularly. Items that should be regularly cleaned include cell phones, laptops or tablets, and television remotes. Other items can include bed sheets, blankets, and towels.
3. Avoid touching your face
Touching your face is an absent-minded habit most people have, but it may also be a habit causing the spread of illness. The most vulnerable access points for harmful bacteria to enter the body is the face’s mucous-lined orifices – the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Mucous membrane-lined orifices like the eyes, nose, and mouth are the perfect access point for bacteria where they can enter the body and travel to the respiratory system. To avoid this, be mindful about not touching your face; and even more so, washing your hands properly after any activities where germs may be spread before touching your face.
4. Get enough sleep
Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus (2). They also show that sleep quality can affect how quickly you can recover from an illness, as well.
During sleep, the immune system releases a protein called cytokines and during an illness, the amount of cytokinesreleased is increased. These extra proteins help to fight inflammation and/or infection. A lack of sleep reduces the immune system’s ability to complete this function (2).
5. Reduce stress
Being stuck in a state of stress can wear down the body and mind. Stress overworks and weakens the immune system, reducing its ability to protect the body against illnesses and infections the way it properly should (3).
Although stress is not completely avoidable, it is important to embrace stress-reduction when necessary. Examples include:
• Listening to music
• Taking walking breaks
• Practicing mindfulness strategies (i.e., yoga, mediation)
6. Get regular exercise
Getting regular exercise is a key component of preventing disease, both passing and chronic. Aerobic exercise, in particular, is especially helpful in keeping you healthy throughout the year.
Aerobic exercise, like walking or jogging, positively affects the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. It boosts the immune system by increasing the circulation of immune cells from the bone marrow, lungs, and spleen. In turn, this enhances the body’s defenses against viruses and bacteria that cause illnesses like the flu and common cold.
7. Stay hydrated
Keeping the body strong is an important part of fending off illness. A key component of keeping your body resilient, especially during the cold and flu season, is to drink plenty of water. Recent studies have found that staying hydrated may boost immune response to enable the body to better fight viruses (4).
Current recommendations are eight glasses of water for male and female adults daily. However, the body’s requirements for liquids increase under stress, such as illness or hot weather.
8. Maintain a healthy diet
Maximizing your diet is an important component of keeping the body healthy. Besides maintaining a well-balanced diet, there several micronutrients with immune-boosting qualities you needed to elevate when attempting to prevent illness.
Vitamins A, C, and E – Provide immune system support, form antibodies, and act as an antioxidant (5). These vitamins participate in functions all the way from protecting against free radicals, aiding in white blood cell production, to healing tissue. Several supplements are available to boost the intake of these vitamins, but foods high in them as well include acidic fruits, leafy vegetables, and nuts.
Protein – Plays a role in the body's immune system, especially for healing and recovery (5). Foods high in protein include seafood, meat, eggs, legumes, nuts, and/or protein supplements and shakes.
Probiotics – Are ‘good’ bacteria that are beneficial to the gut and can also help the body fend off harmful bacteria. Studies have found that regular use of probiotics kept people healthier and reduced the incidence of upper respiratory infections (4).Foods high in probiotics are yogurt and those that are fermented, like kombucha and kimchi.
Wrapping it all up –
Harmful bacteria and viruses are lurking all time the year, especially during cold and flu season. To keep from contracting an illness that can stall your day-to-day life, ensure you are following a balanced, healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy diet, reducing stress levels, and above all else, washing your hands.
Author: Allison Lansman, RDN, LD