We’re living longer and, as it turns out, our natural immunity may need a boost to keep pace.
“As we get older, the immune system cells like other cells – including brain cells and muscle cells – also reduce in effectiveness,” Dr. Iris Gorfinkel says. This dampening is referred to as immunosenescence. “[It’s] why people who are older are more likely to get [a worse case of] influenza and pneumonias,” Gorfinkel explains.
A weaker immune response also increases risk and incidence of shingles. Herpes zoster – part of the chickenpox virus to which as many as 95 per cent of us have been exposed – reactivates as shingles.
And the older we are when we get it, the more likely we are to have postherpetic neuralgia, the continuing pain and burning sensations, long after the characteristic blisters have healed.
A burden on our immune system, having multiple health conditions can further increase risk – as can stress. “It’s hard to find a condition that stress does not hold hands with,” Gorfinkel asserts.