Senior woman sleeping on bed in bedroom


Heh! I’m nearly 60 myself—and I just realized I’m writing this article for me, as well as for you! As a doctor, I know none of us wants to get infected with this miserable coronavirus, COVID-19. So, what is it we “higher risk” folks need to be looking out for? What are we doing wrong, in our quest to ward off this potentially deadly infection? 


Mistake: You’re Lying on the Sofa

Pensive frowning senior woman reading online book on tablet at home

We find ourselves in such a shocking situation right now, it’s easy to just curl up on the sofa under a blanket. That’s you—right? However, for people our age, we need to remember that our metabolism slows by 5% per decade. This means as we age, we need fewer calories and more exercise! You need to get up off the sofa, keep active and restrict your calorie intake. 


So Be More Aware of Your Weight!

Chubby woman sport at home standing on scales checking weight

You know the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone—right? Well, your weight is connected to your immune system. To fight the coronavirus, you need to try and lose weight, not eat Ben & Jerry’s on the sofa and get heavier. If we all don’t do this, we will emerge from this crisis even heavier and even more unhealthy.


Mistake: You’re Not Pumping Your Heart

nurse checking woman's blood pressure

As we age, our hearts grow old, too. Heart disease causes 20% of premature deaths in men and women between the ages of 65 and 74. This is very sad because we can keep our hearts young and healthy, simply by doing as nature intended, and getting up off the sofa and going out the front door! 

As far as the pesky virus is concerned, this is important because from the experience in Wuhan, where the virus was first isolated, those who were admitted to hospital and fared the worst were older people with health conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary heart disease.


So Do Some Moderate Exercise!

Senior African American Woman Exercising In Park

So: Love your heart! Keep it pumping!  Did you know that 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week reduces your risk of coronary heart disease by 14%? 


Mistake: You’re Not Going for Walks

Man wearing mask with his hand up waving at the window

You don’t have to sweat doing things you hate. All you need to do is put one foot in front of the other—and walk. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount. Dr. Harvey Simon, Associate Professor at Harvard-Affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, pointed out that people who exercise just 15 minutes a day have an additional 3 years of life expectancy! 


So Go For That Walk!

A man in medical face mask (respirator) and safety glasses outdoors

We are allowed to walk—even on lockdown (if you stay six feet away from others). It’s a good way to pass the time. Walk fast enough to feel a little out of breath and get your heart rate up. Put on some music and head out there! Now is the time. 


Mistake: You’re Eating Red Meat

Cooking burgers on the grill

You won’t like this, but you and me both—we need to cut the fast food and the red meat. Before you groan and stop reading, I want to tell you something. That lump around your middle is your abdominal fat—and if you dig deep into the middle of it, you’ll find visceral fat. That’s the dangerous fat that’s wrapped around all your internal organs.

 Visceral fat is an active tissue producing hormones which are associated with serious medical conditions. They cause chronic inflammation which in turn is associated with atherosclerosis, diabetes, dementia and cancer.  And guess what: Chronic inflammation damages your immune system. 


So Try a Plant-Based Burger!

grilled vegetables on a platter

If you want to survive coronavirus, cut-down the red meat, and eat plant-based foods instead. It’s not a hard thing to do—many taste like meat—and it could save your life.


Mistake: You Forgot Your Flu Shot

Doctor vaccinating mature woman patient.

Only 45% of American adults had a flu shot, and this was 6% down on the year before. Experts recommend one annually to all US citizens over the age of 6 months.

I put this in here because, although the flu jab is not a vaccine for COVID-19, the last thing any of us need to do right now is get sick from any other preventable disease. If we got the flu and were admitted to hospital we might very well contract COVID-19 during our hospital admission! Plus, being vaccinated shows you are taking responsibility for your health and trying to stay away from the doctor’s office. (When there is a COVID-19 vaccine, we need to be first in the queue!)


So Inquire About That Jab

Female receptionist talking by phone in clinic

Ask your doctor: When’s the right time for me to get one?


Mistake: You Haven’t Had Your BMs Examined

Door handle open to toilet can see toilet

I hazard a guess I’m not alone here, as I bet many others reading this never got around to this either! You know what? It’s time to get real—it’s your poo or your life! Here’s why.

Like all aspects of medicine, prevention is better than cure. And so is early detection. Bowel cancer can lie undetected for long periods, possibly years, during which it can be successfully treated. You may be completely unaware you have it.

Having cancer weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to infections including COVID-19. Now is the time to get screened and get peace of mind, or if you have it, get treatment and get well. And your poo sample is indeed something you can do from home!


So Get it Checked Out!

Mature caucaisan doctor or lab scientist holding urine sample cup

The CDC recommends all people over the age of 50 and 75 have an annual poo test. They test for three things: blood, antibodies and cancer DNA. I’m a doctor, and I’ve had it done. The staff in the clinic have seen it all before! There’s no need to be self-conscious. They’ll mail you a kit and you mail it back. Get on and do something that could save your life today!


Mistake: You’ve Grabbed Another Bottle of Beer

Door handle open to toilet can see toilet

Unfortunately for all of us, repeatedly pouring alcohol into the gut is not good for our immune system. It’s very easy to feel cooped up just now, and think everyone else is doing it too—so why not? However, think again. The health of your immune system is vital right now. If you get the infection, you need a fast, powerful immune response. 


Swap That Third Beer for This

green tea being poured into cup

Now is the time to please your immune system with nutritious green tea instead! 


Mistake: You’re Depressed, Thinking “I Can’t Be Bothered”

selective focus of depressed african american man sitting with bowed head

 Is this you? Many older people say they have no energy, no motivation to do anything—even if they do not feel sad. This may be due to depression.

Just because you are older does not mean you should be depressed.

Staying at home, especially if you live alone, can only increase feelings of isolation. And we are all in this together now—stuck in the house—with only ourselves for company. Medical evidence now exists to support the fact the mind and the body are closely connected— and yes, depression can weaken your immune response.

Regular socializing and physical exercise all stimulate brain health. What can you do if you recognize this pattern, in the face of COVID-19 and lockdown?


Here’s How to Get Un-Depressed

happy senior woman watering allium flowers at summer garden

Here are a few ideas of how you can improve things for yourself:

  • Eat well—You are what you eat. Take an interest in your food. Keep a food diary.
  • Get out in the garden, on the balcony or even sit by an open window. Sunlight and fresh air will help.
  • Sleep as best that you can. Have a good daily routine and sleep pattern. Don’t oversleep 7-9 hours is recommended for adults.
  • Make contact with friends and family via telephone, skype or video call. Try and be cheerful and upbeat and find out what others are doing to keep occupied at this hard time.
  • Laugh! Find some comedy programs on TV or radio. Laughing is therapeutic.
  • Volunteer to help others. 
  • Speak to your GP over the phone. Antidepressants work well and are vital for some. Many people with depression are also suffering from anxiety, and antidepressants can have a calming effect.

It’s mind over matter! There really is power in positive thinking!


Mistake: You’ve Gone Online Shopping—Again!

Laptop and senior woman's hands. Notebook pc on a desk

How easy is it right now to while away the time clicking buttons on the internet? In time of crisis, shopping can become an addiction, a recognized psychological condition, and gives us a sense of control. However, think of  carbon footprint of the online purchase and delivery, plus the fact this involves the movement of people— which is what we are trying to avoid in terms of spreading the virus.


How to Shop Smarter


Only buy what you need. Always use trusted sites. Check your US state board of pharmacy license before you make a purchase. And remember every time you purchase something, someone else is risking their life to deliver it to you.


Mistake: You Forgot to Take Your Blood Pressure Medication!

Electrocardiogram graph report with stethoscope and pills on it

You’re not alone. Did you know 125,000 US citizens die every year because they did not take their medication correctly? This can have serious consequences. For example, it can lead to poorly controlled diabetes, poor control of blood pressure, and an increased risk of a heart attack or a stroke.

Chronic illness weakens the immune system. This is why underlying health conditions make people more susceptible to infections—including COVID-19. 


So Manage Your Medication Better!

Dosette box for dispensing one week's supply of medicines containing a variety of capsules and pills sorted into daily doses at four intervals

We must all try harder to manage our health conditions at home the best we can and start by taking medication as directed. Here are a few ideas of what to do:

  • Read about your medicine and understand what it does for you and how to take it best.
  • You can read the Patient Information Leaflet inside the pack of pills, or for example, visit a trusted website, such as
  • Use a calendar or set an alarm for example on your phone to remind you it’s time to take it.
  • Use a dosette. This is a pill-box with compartments divided up for morning, noon, and night. You can ask for help from our pharmacist, or family and friends to put the right pills in each box in advance for a month at a time.