Vitamins and supplements are recommended by medical professionals for individuals whose diets may be lacking certain nutrients. The purpose of adding over-the-counter vitamins to your daily routine is to help fill in those nutritional gaps. Overtime, getting the nutrients you need may also decrease the risk for certain chronic illnesses and cancers. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 40 percent of people take multivitamins and other supplements by the time they reach 70 years of age. Since seniors generally eat less because they no longer need as much fuel, some medical professionals believe this number should be higher. As you age, your body may increasingly require the assistance of vitamins and supplements. Discover the most common supplements and thoroughly discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor prior to use.
Calcium & Vitamin D
Due to decreased bone density with age, calcium and vitamin D are often discussed as important supplements for seniors. Both nutrients work together to promote bone health and prevent subsequent fractures. Men and women naturally lose bone strength with every decade, and postmenopausal women are the most prone to fractures and osteoporosis.
According to Healthlink BC, seniors over the age of 50 need 1,200 mg of calcium per day, while vitamin D needs range between 600 and 800 IU. The easiest way to take both nutrients is to take a two-in-one capsule. You may need less of these nutrients if you already consume adequate sources in your diet by the way of milk, orange juice and fish.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble nutrient found in eggs, fish, beef, lamb and cheese. It promotes healthy blood cells and nerves while preventing anemia. While the nutrient is widely available in the typical American diet, seniors might consider looking into supplementation. This is especially the case if you frequently exhibit symptoms of anemia, such as fatigue and dizziness.
According to Consumer Reports, the body’s natural ability to absorb vitamin B12 from foods decreases after the age of 50. The average adult over 50 may safely take a supplement between 2.4 and 6 micrograms, with a doctor’s approval.
Vitamin C is one of the most talked about supplements on the market today. With a promise to boost immunity, many vitamin C supplement manufacturers make great sales during cold and flu season. While this antioxidant boosts your immunity, Consumer Reports says that men need 90 mg and women only need 75 mg to receive these effects. This is much less than what is contained in the average supplement.
If you eat adequate amounts of citrus fruits, sweet peppers, spinach, cauliflower, strawberries and kiwis, then your need for a vitamin C supplement is rare. The exception may be if you get sick often and your doctor feels you need the added boost. Furthermore, some studies suggest that adequate vitamin C intake may reduce the risk of age-related dementia.
Vitamin E is a lesser-known nutrient that plays important roles in senior health. Like vitamin C, this nutrient is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage that may lead to chronic illnesses. However, the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation also advocates vitamin E for increased memory function as well as a reduced risk of heart disease.
This nutrient is naturally present in green leafy vegetables, nuts and vegetable oils. If your diet lacks vitamin E, you may consider a supplement with a daily dose of 15 mg.
Warnings & Considerations
Certain vitamins and minerals are popular among seniors due to increased nutritional needs. Instead of bothering with multiple single supplements, you may be more attracted to the ease of taking one simple multivitamin. While multivitamins may provide all the nutrients you need on a given day, these generally aren’t the best solutions unless you have a specific health condition that requires an increased need for multiple nutrients at once. Multivitamins are most common among seniors who do not eat much on a day-to-day basis, whether it is related to a medical condition or weight loss.
There are also some dangers associated with taking certain vitamins and supplements. Vitamin A supplements are generally not recommended because high levels of this nutrient can lead to toxicity-related side effects, such as liver disease. If you take a multivitamin, make sure you don’t eat too many sources of vitamin A, such as carrots, in conjunction with the supplement.
It is crucial to discuss all supplements with a doctor before use. While most are sold over the counter, this doesn’t mean they are completely risk-free. Depending on your individual health, you may not need the supplements. Furthermore, there is a risk of drug interactions, especially if you take blood thinners.
Vitamins and supplements not only have the potential to make you feel better now by filling in diet gaps, but the added nutrients may also help protect you from age-related illnesses. At the very least, such supplements may make you feel more energetic with age. Always discuss all nutritional options with a doctor first.