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Your immunity has a life span

Ageing of the immune system is becoming a matter of concern, more so, amid the pandemic. But what does ‘immune ageing’ even mean? Is that a concern for just the researchers or us too? For answers to these and more, experts explain it all to CE. Dr G Navodaya, consultant, general medicine, Care Hospitals, Banjara Hills, feels that immune ageing has a wider perspective and says, “Immune ageing is a phenomenon that occurs in any patient who is ageing, so this is not specific to immunity.javascript:false

The human body has many cells with unique responsibilities. Some keep the person alive, others build muscle structure, and some maintain the functions of the body, etc. Now, every cell has a basic function and age and after a certain function and time, the cells die. Immunity ageing is the same — if a person is ageing, meaning, growing older, they are likely to see physical changes in and outside the body. Similarly, cell functions start to reduce inside the body, eventually. Cells that maintain our immunity to help fight infections too meet the same fate.”

So what does this mean for us? He responds, “Immunity is maintained so as to protect us from infections. But when these cells have less strength then the human body is prone to infections.” He adds that immune ageing happens not just when one turns older but the process is fastened if habits like smoking and drug intake grow.

Dr Jagadeesh Kumar V, consultant physician at KIMS Hospital, Secunderabad, says that when one bears the brunt of too many infections, the immune cells in the body take a hit. “The advent of Covid has worsened this fear. Immune ageing, which is otherwise called inflammaging, points that inflammation in our body is growing or ageing. Every time a body undergoes inflammation or infection, people’s immunity ages. The cells lose their functional capacity once a person is infected,” says he.

Talking about the aftermath of this, he says, people become obese, they’re vulnerable to infection, their cognition declines (memory comes down), comprehensive capacity and capability come down, etc. On a concluding note he adds that stress too, is a catalyst for immune ageing. “Lack of sleep, unhealthy lifestyle lead to stress, which is making many prone to immune ageing and thus, to many diseases,” he cautions.

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