As time goes on and you continue to age, your immune system will typically and unfortunately age and deteriorate. When you’re still a baby, you have a pretty poor immune system, but that often gets fixed within a few years and after you get adequately vaccinated.
However, once you start transitioning from being an adult to being a senior, that immune system continues to slow down more and more. One of the reasons your immune system doesn’t work as well with age is that your production of white blood cells is slowed down.
Your body continuously produces these cells because they naturally die off and get recycled regularly, but as this production slows down, there won’t be as many overall to replace the ones that die.
This leaves you with fewer cells to fight off incoming diseases than you would’ve had when you were younger, making it harder to stave off illness. Some research has found that you may have to get revaccinated after a certain age in order for them to retain their effectiveness. (For example, the pneumonia vaccine is recommended again at age 65.)
Vaccines work by essentially giving your white blood cells something to practice on, a very small dose of the disease that they fight and then remember, so that the next time they see it they identify it as a threat and take it out swiftly.
As you age, this “knowledge” doesn’t quite get passed down as well through cells, and eventually they might “forget” that a disease they’ve encountered is an enemy. Another issue that your body may encounter with age is an increase in autoimmune diseases, meaning that your body begins to attack itself.
This occurs for a variety of reasons, but it means that your immune system begins to go after healthy body cells that are just doing their job, which can have both light impacts and serious ones.
When it comes to the parts of the immune system that are working properly, they tend to work less well with age. The white blood cells that do go to fight off infections and viruses will do so with less ferocity than they used to, meaning it takes a lot longer to get rid of an illness than it would have when you were younger.
Without the proper speed of an attack, the disease might get a foothold much easier and might have an easier time spreading and overtaking certain parts of the body. It’s important for your longevity and quality of life to do everything you can to bolster your immune system as you age.
Pro tip: A good start to ensure your immune system is working at its best is to supplement with Vitamin D. Get your levels checked with bloodwork and speak with your provider about the appropriate supplement dose for you. An adequate level is typically between 50-70.