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Your Immune System's Constant Battle

Every day, you're at war. The enemy? Bacteria. Viruses. Even cancer cells.

Usually, you're not even aware this battle is taking place. Your immune system carries on the fight without your knowledge. How it works remains a mystery to medical experts, but this much they know:

  • Your immune system can use a boost. The best way to protect yourself against the most common serious infections is simple—get vaccinated. Vaccines are available against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, polio, smallpox, varicella zoster virus (causes chickenpox and shingles), whooping cough, tetanus, influenza, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease, haemophilus influenzae type B, rotavirus, meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitis, human papillomavirus (for women to protect against cervical cancer), and other less common or exotic infections.

  • Your immune system may benefit from certain vitamins. Medical experts say that B-complex vitamins and antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E seem to enhance the immune system. Eat a well-balanced diet and you will probably get sufficient vitamins.

  • On the average day, you conquer one or two different viruses. Most of the time you're unaware that "fighter" cells are working because most viral infections don't cause symptoms.

  • Your immune system starts to rid your body of infection even before you see your doctor. The fever you endure with a bacterial infection helps drive away infection.

  • Gone but not forgotten: Your immune system not only rids the body of "attackers," it also sets up a memory function so that you're less likely to suffer another bout with the same infection.

  • Your immune system slows down as you age, leaving you more susceptible to the types of infection that rarely cause trouble for a younger person.