Proper nutrition and adequate sleep on a daily basis are necessary for your immune system to function properly. Meanwhile, a regular exercise routine is also vital for a healthy immune system. In contrast, chronic conditions such as diabetes and autoimmune disorders deplete the immune system – thereby leaving you more vulnerable to infection by bacteria and other organisms. If you have survived cancer, chemotherapy (as well as the cancer itself) is associated with decreased immune function and an increased risk of infection.
During this time period of widespread global transmission of Covid-19, a healthy immune system can act as a buffer against developing the more severe complications of this viral infection. The following describes ways that boosting your immune system can lower your healthcare and/or health insurance costs, as well as help you to maintain your general health.
Free Radicals, Antioxidants, and Cancer
The waste generated by the cells in our organs (e.g., liver and kidneys) produces particles termed free radicals. These free radicals are essentially molecules that can negatively affect other cells, including promoting abnormal changes in them. In turn, these changes can lead to the development of cancerous tumors (which are clusters of abnormal cells) in our bodies.
Antioxidants destroy free radicals, and both Vitamin C and Vitamin E have antioxidant properties (per a medical research article in Clinical Interventions in Aging). Therefore, consuming a balanced daily diet can enable a higher antioxidant level in our bodies than otherwise. If vitamin and mineral intake is below the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), the result can be lowered immunity – which includes our bodies’ innate ability to destroy cancerous cells in their early stages (termed pre-cancerous growths).
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), an estimated 16.9 million people in the US – or 5 percent of the entire US population – are cancer survivors. An inflammatory response occurs in the body due to cancer, and the immune system is responsible for this normal inflammatory response. However, the basic consequence of a persistent inflammatory state is that our immune systems are rendered less able to respond to an infection. Likewise, cancer treatments typically reduce the ability of the immune system to launch an optimal response to an infection.
Cancer-related costs are a major cause of increased expenditures by private health insurance companies, and this results in decisions by insurers to increase premiums for enrollees considered at risk for new diagnoses of cancer (such as cancer survivors and those with specific chronic health disorders linked to a heightened risk for cancer).
“Gut” Health, Infection, and Immunity
The intestinal tract normally contains various bacteria that do not cause illness. However, people with decreased overall immunity can develop an overgrowth of these bacteria leading to infection. Meanwhile, people who have experienced a course of intensive antibiotics can also develop abnormalities of the “gut” bacteria. While C. difficile bacteria are normally found in the large intestine in small numbers, an intensive antibiotic regimen can lead to a C. difficile infection (and an infection with this bacteria that is not antibiotic-related typically is found in people with severely-lowered overall immunity). Moreover, a C. difficile infection can be extremely debilitating (and even life-threatening) in that it usually causes severe diarrhea.
The following are just three autoimmune disorders that can lead to infection-causing bacterial overgrowth in the intestinal tract, resulting in decreased overall immunity:
Prevention of Infection and Healthful Practices
Besides consuming a healthy daily diet and maintaining a reasonable weight relative to your height, obtaining enough daily sleep, controlling chronic anxiety (through practicing meditation or some other relaxation technique), and refraining from smoking are ways to “boost” your immune system. If your immune system is not functioning well, you are far more likely to develop worse symptoms from a bacterial or viral infection.
Not everyone who becomes infected with Covid-19 develops viral pneumonia, but progressing to viral pneumonia (and hospitalization in an Intensive Care Unit) is far more likely for someone with a weak immune system – such as often occurs in people undergoing chemotherapy and/or age 70 and older.
Health Insurance, Cancer, Infections, and Weak Immunity
You may not feel that you need much health insurance – and especially if your finances have been negatively impacted during this Covid-19 pandemic – but health disorders that result in weakened immunity can place you at higher risk for both cancer and infections. If you have led an unhealthy lifestyle for many years (such as having a former smoking habit), you can be at heightened risk for many health disorders including lung cancer.
While potentially expensive, a health insurance plan with both a low deductible and low co-pays may actually be cost effective if you are likely to need regular medical care inclusive of surgery. Your health insurance needs really depend upon your current health status and your risk factors for future health disorders such as cancer. If you have a weakened immune system, your future healthcare needs are likely to be higher than someone without a weakened immune system.
A consultation with an agent at Life First Financial & Insurance can help you to understand your healthcare insurance options to choose the insurance that best meets your needs.