As you get older, your body’s nutritional needs can change, and you can even become less efficient at absorbing some vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from the food you eat. Because of physiological changes associated with aging, there are certain vitamins that will become more important as you grow older.
To stay healthy, it’s incredibly important for seniors to get the right nutrition. The biggest factor is having a healthy and balanced diet that provides the right amount of energy (calories, essentially), as well as the right balance of protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that your body needs.
But in addition to eating right, it can also be a good idea to take additional vitamin supplements. Here are four of the most important vitamins for seniors.
Cobolomon, better known as “vitamin B12,” is a vitamin that plays important roles in body chemistry — specifically, in DNA synthesis inside of cells, and in your cells’ ability to metabolize fatty acids and amino acids.
Like most vitamins, your body cannot synthesize B12 on its own. The only organisms that can create it out of other molecules are some kinds of bacteria. It’s also important to note that there aren’t any plant-based sources of B12 — you ingest it in animal products. So if you’re vegan or vegetarian, B12 supplements are a must.
Globally, B12 deficiency is actually pretty common, and the main reason is malabsorption due to poor production of certain proteins in the stomach that are needed to absorb it. Past the age of sixty, your risk of B12 deficiency increases with age.
Good dietary sources of B12 include fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, and milk products. If you do not eat animal products, you will need supplements instead.
Most multivitamins contain B12, and you can also get dedicated B12 or general B-complex supplements. Taking these can reduce your risk of deficiency, which causes health effects like neuropathy and anemia.
Folate, known as vitamin B9, is an important compound for important body functions like producing new cells, synthesizing DNA and RNA, and even preventing DNA changes that are associated with cancer.
Getting enough folate in your diet — through foods or supplements — can reduce your risk of stroke by up to 10%. Deficiencies may also increase the risk of certain cancers, of heart disease, and even of clinical depression.
One easy way to get more folate in your diet is to eat fortified breakfast cereals, in which folate is one of several added vitamins.
Calcium is one of the most important elements for biological life, and your body needs enough of it to function. This atomic element plays many, many roles in the human body, in many organ systems. Calcium ion channels are an important part of cell signaling, including in the nervous system. Muscle cell contraction also involves calcium.
One of the best known health effects of long-term calcium deficiency is osteoporosis. As you get older, getting enough calcium becomes an essential need.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to consume dairy products to get the calcium you need. They’re a very good source of it, but if you’re lactose intolerant or just don’t like milk and dairy, you can absorb your calcium from other food sources like dark green leafy vegetables.
Calcium supplements are also available in many forms, some of them gummies or caramel-like candies. Supplementation can be a good idea for older people, to help prevent further weakening of the bones and reduce your risk of a fracture.
Vitamin D can be absorbed from sunlight through your skin, but many seniors end up with slight deficiencies. Part of the reason is that in many subtropical climates, if you have fair skin, you need sunscreen to block UV rays that cause sunburns and skin cancer. This can also block Vitamin D absorption.
Very cold climates with long, dark winters can also put you at risk.
Vitamin D deficiencies in seniors are associated with osteoporosis, mood disorders, and other health problems. Most physicians recommend vitamin D supplementation in people over sixty.
Stay Healthy Longer with Balanced Nutrition
Health issues associated with aging can make getting the vitamins you need more important than ever in your old age. A balanced diet, along with supplementation, can help you make sure you don’t develop any vitamin deficiencies, helping you live a longer and happier life.