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Elderly Care: 10 Most Important Vitamins for Seniors

January 6, 2022
vitamins and minerals for senior citizens

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Many things influence our health - our genes, viruses, bacteria, and the environment – which are not all within our control. But lifestyle factors play a vital role in developing and preventing illness. Senior nutrition is different from the dietary needs of other age groups and there are a lot of ways to help slow down degenerative diseases like having a nutritious diet and taking vitamins and supplements.

Vitamins help your body grow and work the way it should. They have different jobs to help keep the body working at its best. Minerals are elements that our bodies need to function that can be found on the earth and in foods.

Vitamin deficiency is just one of the many issues older adults are prone to. Seniors can face various challenges as they age, many of which we can help slow down with the correct amount of vitamin intake.

Here are some essential vitamins and minerals for the elderly:

Vitamin C

The immune system weakens with age, making seniors susceptible to diseases that range from the common cold to pneumonia. This vitamin protects the aging immune system by increasing white blood cell production to ward off infection and disease. 

It also provides vital antioxidant protection to shield white blood cells from free radicals. When seniors do get sick, vitamin C may speed up the recovery process.

Iron also helps the body produce hemoglobin which allows red blood cells to transport oxygen. Without adequate iron, the health of red blood cells diminishes. By increasing vitamin C intake, the body has an easier time absorbing iron.

Studies show that Vitamin C boosts heart health which is very important for the elderly. The right amount of vitamin C lowers their blood pressure levels by relaxing the vessels crucial to healthy blood flow and lowering harmful cholesterol levels. 

Vitamin C is essential to mitigate the risk factors that lead to heart disease and stroke.

Vitamin D

Osteoporosis is a chronic skeletal disease that causes reduced bone mass and deterioration of the bone microarchitecture, resulting in an increased risk of fracture, especially for the elderly population. 

Vitamin D is closely related to building and maintaining healthy bones. It promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations for normal bone mineralization.

Studies show that people over the age of 65 have less vitamin D. It may be because they go outside less or because it is harder to convert sunlight into vitamin D as you age as the most common way your body produces vitamin D is by converting direct sunlight into an active form of the nutrient

Due to the increased need for vitamin D and the decrease of its natural production with age, many studies suggest how much vitamin d3 an elderly person should take. Seniors aged up to 70 should be getting at least 600 IU. Adults older than 70 should be getting at least 800 IU of vitamin D. However, some say that seniors past this age should consume up to 1000 IU.

Older people are at increased risk of falls and fractures, so they need to have enough vitamin D in their diet to maintain their bone health so that when they do, they can prevent damage to their bones or muscles.

B Vitamins

As the ability of seniors to absorb vitamin B12 decreases and their appetite declines, it makes it difficult for them to get enough B12 through diet alone. Deficiency in B12 may result in increased rates of depression and mood disturbances in elderly people.

Seniors with mild memory problems may benefit from taking very high daily doses of vitamin B to slow the rate of brain shrinkage. Giving the right amount of B vitamins can help address the elderly symptoms such as memory lapse, nerve glitch, stroke, and anemia. 

As the building blocks of a healthy body, B vitamins directly impact your energy levels, brain function, and cell metabolism. It plays a vital role in maintaining good health and well-being. 

Because B vitamins are water-soluble and your body does not store them, it is important to supply them each day.

Calcium

Older people must get enough calcium; an adequate supply can help maintain healthy bones during old age. The elderly are at risk of calcium deficiency for multiple reasons, including low calcium intake due to poor appetite, medication interactions that may decrease dietary calcium absorption, and the underlying chronic disease osteoporosis, which changes bone formation and strength. 

Calcium intake recommendations are higher for seniors as it ensures that muscles, cells, and nerves work properly.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women aged 50 or younger and men 70 or younger should get 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Men and women older than that should get 1,200 mg daily. 

Bone formation changes throughout the lifecycle. Adequate vitamin D and calcium go hand in hand to ensure bone health and reduce the risk of breakage and hip fracture.

Omega Fatty Acids

Cardiovascular pathologies such as hypertension and cerebrovascular disease, and heart diseases such as coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, and heart failure, increase in incidence with increasing age. 

However, it is preventable or treatable with the help of Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3 FA may have substantial benefits in maintaining a healthy heart and reducing the risk of cognitive decline in older people. 

The challenge posed by population aging translates into ensuring that the extra years of life will be as good as possible, free from high-cost dependency.

Doctors often recommend fish oil supplements because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. To get the most significant benefits from taking fish oil supplements, seniors must combine them with a good lifestyle, such as regularly exercising and improving their diet to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.  

Keep in mind that fish oil can interact with certain medications. When taken in high doses, it can increase clotting times which can cause problems with bleeding. However, it is still manageable and many doctors opt to monitor their patients rather than take them off of the fish oil supplements.

Probiotics

Older people have naturally lower levels of friendly bacteria; that is why it is not only safe for them to take live probiotic cultures but advisable to do so. Seniors can be more susceptible to health conditions including Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, bloating, diarrhea, and indigestion, all of which originate in the gut. 

Supporting the body's balance of good bacteria with a probiotic supplement can help maintain healthy digestion, good immune health, and overall vitality especially in the elderly. 

The best time of day to take most probiotics is in the morning with breakfast, as stomach acid is naturally lower in the morning. 

Common fermented foods naturally contain probiotics or have probiotics added to them, including yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, etc. However, there are also several probiotic supplements in the form of capsules or pills, powders, or liquid to help ensure that they intake a sufficient amount to maximize the benefits.

Vitamin A

Provitamin A carotenoids are precursors of vitamin A and have antioxidant properties. Carotenoids fight highly reactive molecules that can harm the body by creating oxidative stress linked to heart disease and cognitive decline.

Presently, there is little evidence that the requirement for vitamin A in older adults differs from that of younger adults. Additionally, vitamin A toxicity may occur at lower doses in the elderly and high intakes of some forms of vitamin A can be harmful. 

For this reason, it is recommended for most men 51 and older to aim for only 75mg each day and most women 51 and older 90mg each day. Just keep in mind that high potency vitamin A supplements should not be used without medical supervision due to the risk of toxicity.

Age-related macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of vision loss in older people. Perhaps one of the best-known functions of vitamin A is its role in vision and eye health. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that's crucial to the body's function. It helps keep blood pressure regular, bones strong, and the heart rhythm steady. The elderly's physical activity declines, and with it, their food and fluid intake. 

However, the magnesium requirement remains the same. Seniors also frequently avoid magnesium-rich food because they are often difficult to digest, resulting in inadequate magnesium intake and levels. Because of this, experts recommend that elderly people ensure an adequate magnesium intake.

Magnesium-deficient conditions are associated with neuromuscular and cardiovascular disorders, endocrine disturbances, insulin resistance, and Alzheimer's disease. With potassium and calcium, magnesium ensures that nerve impulses are transmitted smoothly and clearly explains the link between magnesium deficiency and cardiac arrhythmia. 

If the body lacks magnesium, the muscle cells cannot relax following stimulation. The current recommended daily requirements of magnesium for adults 51 and older is 420mg for men and 320mg for women. Many studies show that taking magnesium can also help reduce blood pressure.

Potassium

Potassium deficiency develops slowly in the elderly through fatigue, muscle weakness, cramps, bone fragility, nausea, vomiting, and higher blood sugar. Getting enough potassium is vital in their diet as it may also help keep bones strong. 

This essential mineral is important for cell function and has also been shown to help reduce high blood pressure and the risk of kidney stones.  Low potassium can cause mood changes in older adults, including confusion, depression, nervous disorders, and erratic behavior. 

Fruits and vegetables like bananas, prunes, plums, and potatoes with their skin are by far the richest dietary sources of potassium. 

Just as too little potassium can be a problem, too much potassium can also be very dangerous for the health. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends that seniors have a diet of at least 4.7 grams of potassium each day. There are also potassium supplements the elderly can take as long as they consult their doctors first.

Folate

Seniors are particularly prone to folic acid deficiency, and certain conditions and predispositions can further put them at risk for health issues related to a lack of this mineral.  

Taking supplements of folic acid may significantly improve cognitive function in older men and women. A lack of folic acid can increase homocysteine levels, which can contribute to a higher risk of stroke or deterioration of mental function.

Studies suggest that folic acid is closely linked to memory. With most seniors over the age of 80 displaying some symptoms or signs of dementia, eating a balanced diet that includes the recommended daily allowance of folic acid may help prevent memory loss, forgetfulness, and even aphasia.

Many seniors may suffer from weight loss or failure to thrive following an accident, injury, or illness, and it can be tough for them to regain weight for the strength needed to rehabilitate. Folic acid is significant in regulating appetite, so in many instances, it may help the elderly maintain a healthy weight throughout aging. 

The daily folate supplement should be at least 0.5 mg/day, and it should never be used as a surrogate for a diet rich in fruit and vegetables.

Conclusion

As people grow older, they experience an increasing number of significant life changes, including physical and health challenges. The way they process food and its effects on their bodies also change. In addition to an upset stomach, the consequences of poor nutrition in the elderly can be much direr. 

Ensuring that they have a well-balanced diet, a healthy lifestyle and that they receive the proper amount of essential vitamins and nutrients is the key to healthy aging.

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