To lead healthy, wholesome lives, building and maintaining a strong immune system is a priority, more so in recent times. A strong immune system is even more critical for people battling chronic diseases to ensure that mild infections do not escalate into further severe complications. While good, balanced nutrition is a well-known contributor to building a strong immune system, what most people are unaware of is the fact that poor muscle health can also adversely impact immunity.
Connection between muscles, the immune system and disease management
Muscles matter as they are well-known for their role in movement, and muscle preservation is vital for maintaining strength and function as we age. There is evidence suggesting muscles play a role in immune function as well. Muscles produce and release compounds which play an important role in the creation, activation, and distribution of some immune cells. They are also key sources of amino acids used by the body during stress or infection.
After the age of 40, the physiology of both men and women undergoes changes. More importantly, the body starts to lose muscle mass faster, and that can be as much as 33% of muscle mass loss between 40-80 years of age.
Low muscle mass and inadequate protein intake may weaken the body’s response to an injury or infection, and emerging research suggests loss of muscle mass can contribute to compromised immunity and infections. While it is important for everyone to prioritise their muscle health and prevent muscle loss as they age, those living with chronic conditions need to be even more vigilant. For example, conditions like chronic lung diseases, diabetes, heart diseases etc. can accelerate muscle loss and diminish strength.
Can a healthy lifestyle help address muscle health concerns? The answer is yes.
Exercising regularly – aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week – and eating a well-rounded diet are essential to staying healthy, supporting muscles and also helping to manage blood sugar.
The benefits of physical exercise are plenty! Research studies have shown that physical activity helps reduce abdominal obesity, improves our lipid profile, insulin sensitivity and reduces blood pressure. A chair challenge test is an easy way to test your muscle strength, and understand your muscle age and adopt any timely corrective measures. The time you take to do 5 sit-ups on a chair of approx. height of 43cm (1.4 feet) can tell you your muscle age. For example, for males between 40 and 50 years of muscle age, it should take about 6.8 to 7.5 seconds and for females the time taken should be 6.9 to 7.4 seconds to perform the test. To know more about how the chair challenge test works, one can visit www.muscleagetest.in. In addition to exercising and adopting healthy lifestyle habits, incorporating good nutrition practices into daily lives is also essential.
Maintain a balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats
Eat enough protein-rich foods like chicken, seafood, eggs, nuts, beans or dairy. Adults should aim to eat about 15 to 20 grams of protein per major meal. However, adults over the age of 65 may need more protein than younger adults – particularly those with a health setback
Prioritise quality foods that contain micronutrients to support a healthy immune system, such as vitamin C, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin A and vitamin D
It’s not always easy to get enough of all the nutrients needed to adequately support muscle and immune health. This is even more challenging for people with chronic diseases who also need to stay on top of their medications and routines and feel they don’t have enough time to plan ahead when it comes to meals and snacks. This is where individuals can opt for disease-specific nutritional supplements – as part of a healthy lifestyle programme – to help close that gap and ensure proper nutrient intake.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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