Top 10 Worst Things for Your Immune System

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Staying healthy isn't just about using hand sanitizer and avoiding coughing co-workers. It turns out some pretty surprising daily habits—like how you fight with your husband or whether you stay up late for Letterman—can impact how well your body fends off colds, flu and other pesky bugs. Here's a list of science-backed tips to add to your stay-healthy arsenal today.

Find Out If Your Immune System Needs a Boost

You Avoid the Water Cooler

Friendship may be Miracle-Gro for your immune system.

Research shows that the fewer human connections we have at home, at work, and in the community, the likelier we are to get sick, flood our brains with anxiety-causing chemicals, and live shorter lives than our more sociable peers. In one study, researchers who monitored 276 people between the ages of 18 and 55 found that those who had 6 or more connections were 4 times better at fighting off the viruses that cause colds than those with fewer friends.

Don't let a jam-packed workday or hectic schedule get in the way of your friendships. Stop by a co-worker's office for a quick Monday morning catch-up, or e-mail/text your friends at night to stay in touch when you're too busy for phone calls.

You Often Feel Tired

Scrimping on sleep has a powerfully detrimental effect on immunity.

The perfect example: college students who get sick after pulling all-nighters cramming for exams. Poor sleep is associated with lower immune system function and reduced numbers of killer cells that fight germs. In fact, University of Chicago researchers found that men who had slept only 4 hours a night for 1 week produced half the amount of flu-fighting antibodies in their blood (jump-started by a flu shot) compared with those who slept 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours.

Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of uninterrupted rest every night, but how you feel in the morning and throughout the day may be a better gauge. If you're tired when you wake up in the morning, you're not getting enough—sleep, or maybe not enough quality sleep.

Is It Exhaustion or Something More?

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