(ARA) - Anyone can fall victim to winter colds and flu, but evidence shows that growing older can increase the frequency and severity of seasonal bug bouts. "As the human body enters its senior years, its ability to fight off infection and other health problems diminishes significantly," reports HealthLink, the Web site of the Medical College of Wisconsin. "The immune system, which is responsible for fighting infection, simply does not function as efficiently in older adults as in younger people." The site offers tips for keeping the immune system in shape, including regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, no smoking and limited alcohol use. "Moderate drinking seems to have some health benefits, but excessive drinking can cause serious damage," the site states. Other sources agree that there is a direct connection between aging and immune function. "The immune system loses its ability to fight off infection as you grow older," according to the University of Pennsylvania Health System Web site. "Flu shots or other immunizations may not work as well, and protection may not last as long as expected." The site adds that common problems associated with mature immune systems include increased infection risk, decreased ability to fight diseases, slowed wound healing, auto-immune disease and cancer. "Immune depression is more common as we get older," says Dr. Roger Mazlen of Roslyn, N.Y. "The immune system ages with the rest of the body, but it depends on a person's genetics. Every year, 30,000 people die of flu. It's harder to make anti-bodies when we're older. That's why flu vaccines are especially important for the elderly." Mazlen favors the immune support supplement Del-Immune V (
). "Del-Immune V has great value when you want to correct the immune depression," Mazlen says. "I have given this product to over 500 patients, and I am delighted with the immune response I have seen. The product has a positive impact on the immune system, is available for anyone who wants to cultivate healthy immune function and is safe for older adults and children." Another option in the dietary supplement category is an immune-support vitamin formula from the Mitamin.com Web site. (
). The Web site offers custom-blended supplements to address a multitude of health needs. An interactive feature on the site allows users to list health issues along with medications used. The site will suggest nutritional supplement options based on the information submitted. Immune support is also as close as the nearest health food store in the form of flaxseed oil. In 2006, the British Journal of Nutrition reported that flaxseed oil reversed age-associated immune depression in mice. Daily doses of flaxseed oil provide important omega-6 and omega-9 essential fatty acids which studies have shown may also help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Health food stores generally carry several brands of flaxseed oil. It is important to refrigerate the oil after opening to maintain freshness and potency.