New Delhi: COVID-19 is by far the deadliest pandemic to have hit the world in the last 100 years. What makes this contagion a greater cause of worry is the very high rate of infection due to human-to-human transfer. This viral ailment spreads through inadvertent inhalation of respiratory droplets from an infected person. In the absence of a vaccine or any proven treatment procedure, the pandemic is a cause of concern for all of us. However, the risk of COVID-19 complications becomes manifold in older people because with advancing years, the body’s immunity weakens considerably. Hence, a person in his 80s is much more likely to have complications due to the infection than someone in their 30s. Keeping that in mind, it is essential to understand the impact of the deadly virus on the body’s immune system and how to protect the elderly from the condition.
Our immune system is not only the body’s main line of defence but is also responsible for helping it get rid of the damaged cells, deformed proteins and various other such things. Its role is similar to that of police in normal times and of the army whenever any viral infection takes place. However, as we advance in age, the body’s immune system starts becoming slower and less capable of keeping it clear of the undesirable pathogens and other materials in normal times. Hence, inflammations, pains and reduction in mobility become a common problem.
In such a situation, the entry of a deadly virus such as COVID-19 wreaks havoc with the body. The virus reproduces at such a rapid pace that it already becomes overwhelming for the immune system by the time it starts responding to the threat. Consequently, the immune system becomes overactive, causing severe inflammation and blockage of the respiratory tract and in many cases, organ failure as well.
These risks pertaining to organ failure or respiratory complications become even more severe in patients suffering from co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma/COPD, heart disease, cancer etc. To further complicate the matters, such a weakened immune system also leads to a much lower effect of anti-inflammatory drugs in aged patients.
When the innate immune system fails to prevent the virus from spreading and the inflammation becomes severe, that’s when most of the Covid-19 cases turn serious. It is at this stage when the body’s adaptive immune system springs into action. However, by the time the adaptive immunity starts working, the body becomes overwhelmed due to the damaged cells, proteins and other such things which the innate immune system failed to get rid of. Thus, the fatalities become more prevalent in such scenarios.
The only effective way to prevent such a situation is to focus on boosting the immune system among elderly as well as among general public or the patients of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory ailments.
It is important for people with co-morbid conditions to take their regular medication and keep their ailment under control. Stress and unhealthy lifestyles are also known to weaken immunity, even more so among the elderly. Hence, it is important for senior citizens to regularly exercise and focus on an active lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet with the right amount of proteins and vitamins is essential. Another thing that is highly beneficial is the quality and duration of sleep. Sleeplessness causes fatigue and mental stress which lead to weaker immunity.
With the advancement in healthcare and increase of life expectancy, it is becoming commonplace for people to live well into their 70s and 80s or even 90s. However, we also need to ensure that people are made aware of the benefits of not only ageing, but doing so with good physical, mental and emotional fitness. Such an approach will not only improve their quality of life in the golden years, but also give their bodies the ability to fight infections such as Covid-19 successfully!
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.