If you want to live a long and healthy life, keep your immune system happy. In his book, UltraLongevity: The Seven-Step Program for a Younger, Healthier You, Mark Liponis, M.D., Canyon Ranch Corporate Medical Director, offers ideas on how to beat the aging process by keeping your body’s immune system in balance.
An overactive immune system is a danger to your body, Dr. Liponis explains in UltraLongevity. As we get older, we acquire a healthy immunity to common ailments such as colds, stomach flu and other bugs, but there’s a downside. When all those billions of antibodies are activated to fight infection, other parts of your body may be accidentally attacked, like a soldier hit by friendly fire. It’s the “balance between protection and destruction,” he says in a chapter called “How the Immune System Can Go Wrong.” According to Dr. Liponis, more than 50 percent of American deaths in 2005 were caused by autoimmune problems.
Bring your body into balance
“A lot of people think you should boost your immune system,” says Dr. Liponis. “But think of it as an army of 30 billion soldiers, armed and dangerous. Just being under stress can trigger your immune system into search-and-destroy mode.”
Avoid triggering your immune system, he says and you automatically reduce your risk of contracting a host of age-related ailments, from diabetes and cancer to heart disease. For instance, “eating too much is very stressful to the immune system.”
Dr. Liponis writes from the heart. His own expectations of longevity met with a severe challenge 14 years ago, when tests detected a huge tumor in his left kidney. With no family history of kidney cancer, he began to ponder possible reasons for the onset of the disease. The tumor, he learned, had likely been growing for 10-15 years with no symptoms. Following successful surgery to remove the kidney, he moved away from his background in internal medicine and critical care to focus on preventive and integrative medicine and nutrition.
UltraLongevity includes a seven-step program and an eight-day meal plan, with simple guidelines for keeping your immune system in balance. It’s never too late to adopt healthy habits, says Dr. Liponis. “Oftentimes the benefit is almost immediate.”
Seven Steps to UltraLongevity
- Learn to breathe properly for a healthy immune system.
- Eating big, infrequent meals can burden your digestive tract and put your immune system into overdrive. Instead, eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Sleep is important to the immune system. Women who sleep only six hours or less per night are 20 percent more likely to suffer heart problems.
- Dance. Rhythmic exercise is more beneficial to the immune system than other kinds of exercise.
- Love of any kind is the antidote for negative emotions – so find ways to cultivate love in your life.
- A calm environment is soothing for you and your immune system. Listening to music can modulate immune system response.
- Enhance: Dr. Liponis recommends that you take vitamins and supplements, such as vitamin D, to promote immune-system health.
Be healthy for life
Dr. Liponis also co-authored the award-winning book Ultraprevention, published in 2003, offering lifestyle tips and techniques for healthy aging. “There’s a difference between getting older and aging,” he says. “Getting older is just time passing; but you don’t have to lose functions.” Don’t wait for symptoms, he urges, but be proactive. Adopt healthful behaviors, and stay involved in your own health with regular check-ups and appropriate routine tests.
It’s not hard to stay healthy, he says. “Once you’ve made that commitment, that’s half the battle right there.”
Tossing around topics for future books, Dr. Liponis says he’d like to write on maintaining a healthy brain. In all areas of health, prevention is the key to wellness, he says. Through his work at Canyon Ranch and in his books, his goal is to promote the healthiest possible model for living life to the fullest, from youth to healthy and vigorous aging. A balanced immune system will help you achieve it.