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Boost Your Immune System

She Hit the Gym to Be Strong Enough for an Organ Transplant

Yvette Matthews hired a personal trainer after she started moving up the list for a liver transplant in 2011. At 57, she wanted to ensure she was fit -- because any doubt that she could survive the rigors of a transplant could mean being denied.

Yvette, the daughter of a Division I college football player, had exercised all her life. She still weighed the same as when she was in high school and was a dutiful walker and runner. Still, she wanted to be sure.

“It was pure fear that they were going to tell me I was not well enough to receive the transplant,” Yvette says. “There were days I could barely lift a weight, barely walk up the stairs.”

Yvette received her new liver in February 2013, convinced that fitness saved her life. Her story shows another powerful reason to stay in good physical condition in our mature years – so we can handle what comes at us, from knee replacements to other surgeries and more.

And for thousands of people over 50 needing organ transplants, Yvette is a case study in perseverance.

People Over 50 Are Active Donors

In July 2021, more than 107,000 Americans need a lifesaving organ transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the private, non-profit organization that manages the nation’s organ transplant system under contract with the federal government.

A third of donated organs in 2019 came from people over 50, says the US Health Services & Resource Administration.

“In 2019, about 63% of all the people who received organ transplants were 50 or older. You're never too old to make a difference,” the government says. “Over 21% of all receiving patients were 65 or older.”

Kidney, heart, lung, pancreas and lung transplants are among the most common.

‘A Little Spark of Energy in You’

In 2012, Matthews was weak, jaundiced, and retaining fluid.

She took several steps that helped. First, she went to the gym two to three times a week, using Nautilus machines when able. Second, as her rare liver disease progressed, she hired a trainer, who was inspiring.

“She was so positive every time we got together,” Matthews said. “She would say to me, ‘Give me one more rep, just one more. You can do it.’”

Third, when winter came, Yvette still went for daily walks outdoors for at least 30 minutes.

A year after her procedure, Yvette entered nine events in the World Transplant Games in Houston. She medaled in all nine and won five. In 2022, she will return to the National Senior Games.

“I learned that no matter how tired you are, there is still a little spark of energy in you,” she says. “No matter how sick you feel, you can always get up.”

>You can register to become a donor here.

It’s No Time to Neglect Your Immune System

With the pandemic, we all know how important it is to keep up a strong immune system, particularly among people over 65 or so. Keeping all of our health goals in mind, you want to devote your new awareness to taking positive steps for your health every day.

Regular exercise is among the best things you can do for your immune system. Staying strong keeps your body stronger against inflammation, diseases, and infections, which weaken our aging immune systems.

Other tips:

  • Stay at a healthy weight. Abdominal fat triggers inflammation and increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Get plenty of water. Avoid processed foods. Be sure your diet includes citrus, spinach and broccoli; plus, chicken, salmon, tuna and green vegetables; nuts, seeds and spinach; tea, garlic, miso and ginger.

  • Discuss your diet with your doctor and ask him or her about vitamin supplements. Many mature adults don’t eat often enough during the day, or consume the necessary variety of foods, causing a form of malnutrition that can weaken the immune system.

  • Don’t spend too much time in the sun.

  • Limit drinking alcohol; don’t smoke at all.

  • Get enough sleep.

  • Wash your hands frequently – another good lesson we all learned in the last year – and be sure to cook meats thoroughly.

  • Manage chronic stress as much as possible related to family, friends, work problems, etc.

Our health is our own responsibility, so be sure to take care of yourself. For more tips on how to boost your immune system through exercise, check out our blog or sign up for our news note.

Latin American flavors come alive in this festive beef dish with fruity salsa. From Deliciously Healthy Dinners. Perfect with a side of rice and a side salad.


  • ½ Tbsp vegetable oil

  • 1 beef tenderloin roast (16 oz)

For salsa:

  • ½ C canned diced pineapple, in fruit juice, chopped into small pieces

  • ¼ C red onion, minced

  • 2 tsp fresh cilantro, rinsed, dried, and chopped (or substitute ¼ tsp dried coriander)

  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

For seasoning:

  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

  • 1 tsp ground coriander

  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

  • ¼ tsp ground allspice

  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)

  • 2 tsp chili powder

  • ¼ tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 375 ºF.

  2. For the salsa, combine all ingredients and toss well. Let sit for 10–15 minutes to marinate while preparing the seasoning and cooking the meat.

  3. For the beef tenderloin seasoning, combine all ingredients. Lightly oil the tenderloin and spread an even layer of the dry seasoning over the entire roast.

  4. Place the seasoned roast on a roasting or broiling pan and roast 10–15 minutes (to a minimum internal temperature of 145 ºF). Let cool for 5 minutes before carving into 16 slices (1 ounce each).

  5. Serve four slices of the tenderloin with ¼ cup salsa on the side.


215 calories, 9g fat, 3g sat fat, 67mg cholesterol, 226mg sodium, 2g fiber, 25g protein, 9g carbohydrates

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