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What you need to know about vitamin, mineral supplements

by Staci Gulbin | Contributor
September 25, 2020

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No matter how hard you may try to eat a healthy diet and include as many fruits and vegetables as possible each day, you may wonder if you’re missing anything. It’s hard to tell if you’re missing any nutrients unless you have your doctor test for them, but they are not usually part of your yearly exam. So, we are left wondering whether we need to take any vitamins or minerals in supplement form daily just to make sure. It’s important to learn more about vitamin and mineral needs of older adults and how you can decide if you need a daily supplement for optimal health.

Vital nutrients for older adults

As you age, there are some nutrients that you may not absorb as well as you used to or that you may need to lower chronic disease risk. Read below to learn about the essential nutrients older adults should consume each day.

Calcium

Peak bone mass occurs at around 25 to 30 years of age. At the age of 50 years, bone loss rates tend to exceed bone formation rates, which places older adults at risk of weakening bones that can lead to osteoporosis and increased risk of fractures. Therefore, it’s vital that older adults consume enough calcium from the foods they eat to preserve bone health.

Calcium-rich food sources include:

  • dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese
  • leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • beans
  • calcium-fortified cereals and juices

If you don’t eat enough of such foods daily or if your doctor finds that you have low blood calcium levels, then you may need to take a calcium supplement. It’s also important to know that vitamin D is necessary to help the body better absorb calcium into your bones.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is important to help the bones absorb calcium. You can absorb vitamin D from the sun if you’re outside for at least 15 to 30 minutes twice weekly. If you find you’re not outdoors often enough to soak up enough sun, you can also obtain vitamin D from foods such as fatty fish like salmon or trout as well as from vitamin D fortified milk, milk products or cereals. If labs show that your vitamin D levels are low, your doctor will recommend a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important for keeping your red blood cells and nerves healthy, but it may not be absorbed as well in older adults. Vitamin B12 is found in fortified cereal, lean meat and some fish and seafood. If your doctor finds your vitamin B12 levels to be low, then you may need to take a supplement daily. B12 deficiency, if not treated, could lead to a type of anemia that could cause symptoms like severe fatigue.

Vitamin B6

The National Institute of Aging suggests that older adults consume enough vitamin B6 each day to help form enough healthy red blood cells. You can find vitamin B6 in foods like potatoes, bananas, chicken breasts and fortified cereals.

Fiber

For your best digestive health, fiber is a crucial part of every person’s daily diet. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods, with most adults requiring at least 25 to 38 grams of fiber daily. If you are not eating enough high fiber foods, then you may need to take a fiber supplement such as psyllium husk, which is the primary fiber source in Metamucil.

Potassium

Potassium is an important nutrient you need to help heart health. This nutrient can help lower risk of high blood pressure, bone loss, as well as kidney stones. You can find potassium in foods like:

Grapefruit with vitamin supplements in one half
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • bananas
  • milk and yogurt
  • leafy greens like broccoli and spinach
  • baked potato with skin
  • strawberries
  • avocado

If your potassium is low, then you may need to take a supplement daily.

Signs you may need a supplement

To find out if you need a supplement alongside of your diet, you will need to visit your doctor so they can check some labs. Calcium and potassium are in the standard blood panel at your annual exam. However, if you suspect you may be low in other nutrients, then you will need to ask your doctor to check them since they are not typically a part of the annual exam. Look for the following signs that you may be low in certain nutrients:

  • Vitamin D: bone pain, muscle weakness
  • Calcium: weakened bones, fractures, abnormal heart rhythms
  • B vitamins: fatigue, weakness, rashes, dry skin
  • Iron: Headache, fatigue, weakness
  • Potassium: abnormal heart rhythms, muscle twitches or weakness

How to add a supplement to your daily routine

It can’t hurt to add a daily multivitamin specifically formulated for older adults. But with separate supplements, it’s important to talk to your health care provider to receive their recommendation. And if you do decide to take a daily supplement or two, use the following tips to find a brand you can trust.

  • Make sure the supplement has USP verification: This verification ensures that dietary supplements are pure and contain exactly what you see listed on the label.
  • Find a supplement that contains well-known nutrients: You should choose a daily multivitamin that at least contains 100-percent of B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12) and vitamin C, as well as some other well-known nutrients like magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, folic acid and zinc, to name a few.
  • Choose a supplement appropriate for your age: Women’s, men’s and older adult forms of multivitamins contain different combinations and dosages of nutrients specific for your age, so be sure to choose one customized for your health needs.
  • Look for lab testing: Be sure to check the label to see if the vitamin has been third-party tested to ensure that it is of the highest quality.

When taking any multivitamin, be sure to take it with food to help reduce risk of digestive issues like stomach upset or nausea.

If you’re taking any other prescribed medicines, be sure to check with your doctor and pharmacist to make sure the supplements you wish to take will not interact with such medicines. And be sure to follow the recommended daily dosage and do not take more than is recommended since certain nutrients, such as the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, will store in the body and can lead to health problems and toxicity in excessive amounts.

Alliance America can help

Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company. Our financial professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and achieving your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling (833) 219-6884 today.

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