Aging and the immune system
As we age, we are confronted – amongst other changes related to aging – with something called inflammaging and immunosenescence.
Inflammaging: what does it mean?
Our immune system is finely tuned when we are young (children or young adults). But as we age, our body and our bodily functions progressively loses his capacity to defends himself. Inflammaging is basically a persistent low-grade state of inflammation that does not tend to resolve and whereby tissue repair is slow or failing. It is progressive with age and in turn leads to immunosenescence.
Immunosenescence: what does it mean?
When we age, our immune system ages as well offering less powerful resistance against all types of enemies (bacteria, viruses, toxics, etc.). This is called immunosenescence. Immunosenescence is typically accompanied by increased risks for infections, as well as more frequent re-activation of latent viruses (such as Herpes Simplex), diminished response to vaccination, meaning less vaccine efficacy, and increased prevalence of cancer and autoimmune disease.
Though the immune system does have strategies to cope with aging, these strategies sometimes result in a maladaptavie response, which then aggravate aging and age-related complications.
Poor dietary habits, diminished physical activity and decreased muscle mass all facilitate immunosenescence.
Aging and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and particularly physical activity.
A review published in the journal Nutrients shows evidence that healthy lifestyle habits, diminish the risk of inflammaging and immunosenescence.
Even more important than nutrition, we know now that exercise seems very effective in reducing maladaptive response during aging, with particularly regular endurance exercise having the biggest effect against inflammaging.
Weyh, Christopher et al. “Physical Activity and Diet Shape the Immune System during Aging.” Nutrients vol. 12,3 622. 28 Feb. 2020, doi:10.3390/nu12030622