Healthy Living: Vitamins for Seniors
As we age, our bodies change, which means our nutritional needs change. While seniors need the same vitamins and minerals as younger people, they need them in different amounts due to these changes.
Healthcare providers agree that most seniors should try meeting their nutrient needs through diet instead of supplements. However, making dietary changes is difficult for some seniors, such as:
— Limited income to buy more expensive fresh fruits and vegetables.
— Do not know how to cook, have limited access to cooking appliances and utensils, or physical difficulties cooking.
— Decreased appetite.
— Ill-fitting dentures.
In these situations, taking supplements may be necessary. But seniors should always check first with their doctor before taking any vitamin or mineral supplements.
So where should seniors focus their attention? The vitamins and minerals listed below are most likely to be deficient for seniors.
— Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and decreases risk of osteoporosis, some cancers, and heart disease. We get most vitamin D from sun exposure, but as we age, the skin is not as effective at absorbing vitamin D. Vitamin D is also found in fortified milk and yogurt, fortified juices, and fatty fish. Adults age 51 to 70 years old need 600 IU per day. Adults 71 years and above need 800 IU per day.
— Calcium: After menopause, women are less able to absorb calcium. Also, calcium tends to leave the bones during aging. Calcium is found in dairy products, green leafy vegetables, and fortified orange juice. Women aged 51 and older need 1200 mg daily. Men up to age 70 need 1000 mg daily and men age 71 and older need 1200 mg/day.
— Vitamin B12: This vitamin is also not absorbed well due to the changes of aging. Also, B12 is absorbed in the stomach and requires stomach acid for absorption. Many seniors take medications to treat heartburn and reflux. These meds block stomach acid production and therefore, interfere with B12 absorption. B12 is found in dairy products, lean meat, fish, seafood, and fortified cereals. Adults need 2.4 mcg daily.
— Potassium: Aging also decreased the absorption of potassium, which is necessary for heart, kidney, muscle, and nerve functions. However, the aging process also decreases the kidneys ability to filter potassium from the blood. So you should always check with your doctor before taking supplements. Potassium is easily found in a variety of fruits and vegetables such as bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, and leafy greens. Adults require 4700 mg of potassium daily.