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