Aging and the Immune System
The immune system is a complex network of proteins, tissues, cells, and organs that protect your body against parasites, bacteria, and antigens. According to research, older people develop immunosenescence - the gradual deterioration of immunity brought on by age. What are these changes among old people that tamper with their immune system? Below we explain more on this subject.
A shrinking thymus - thymus is found behind the breastbone and facilitates the maturity of the T lymphocytes-the core of a cell`s immunity. During the late adolescence stages, the thymus starts to shrink, and by mid-40s only 15% is remaining. This size leaves a smaller space for the T-cells to mature hence interfering with the immunity in older people.
The strength of the T-Cells reduces - T Cells monitors the larger immunity system or directly combat the antigens. Although age doesn’t decrease the number of T cells, it interferes with the cell's functionality, and weakens the immune system, hence increasing affinity to diseases.
The speed of macrophages reduces - Macrophages are leukocytes (white blood cells) that consume antigens. As you grow older, these cells function slowly, and this may be the reason why cancer is more rampant among the elderly.
The number of white blood cells reduces - As you age, new antigens are attacked by fewer white cells. This reduces the ability of the body to remember older antigens, hence increasing attack from diseases you had fought before.
Fewer antibodies are produced to respond to an antigen - Older people produce fewer antibodies which are not enough to attach to an antigen. The phenomenon partly explains why vaccines fail among the old and diseases like pneumonia, tetanus, and influenza are so rampant.
Development of specific old age diseases like diabetes and autoimmune disorder like scleroderma also leads to the weakening of the immune system.
To boost the immune system, the elderly should get regular immunization like Pneumovax, tetanus, flu, and hepatitis vaccinations and also maintain a healthier lifestyle.