Vitamins for Seniors: Helpful or Hype?

senior lady holding supplement and water
Are supplemental vitamins for seniors really necessary?

 

Minerals, vitamins, and supplements – oh my! 70% of older adults are taking them; but are vitamins for seniors actually necessary? After all, a balanced and healthy diet offers older adults essential nutrients. But there are certain instances of deficiency that may call for the addition of a supplement. Make sure to check with the doctor before making any changes, but with their recommendation or approval, consider the following:

Calcium

Older bones are susceptible to breaks and fractures when calcium intake is insufficient. This is especially true for post-menopausal women, with a full 50% of those over age 50 breaking a bone because of osteoporosis. Having said that, men are also in danger of significant complications from calcium deficiency. A hip fracture in men, for instance, is much more likely to be fatal than it is for women.

The very best natural sources for calcium are salmon, leafy greens, broccoli, kale, and dairy products, but most women over age 50 and men over age 70 are not getting adequate calcium from food alone. The NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements recommends 1,200 mg of calcium daily for women over age 51 and men over age 71, and 1,000 mg daily for men ages 51 – 70.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is calcium’s closest friend. They work most effectively when taken together to enhance not only bone health, but the immune and nervous systems and perhaps the heart as well. Sunshine is the greatest source for vitamin D, but aging skin in addition to the threat of skin cancer can cause roadblocks to obtaining sufficient levels.

Recommendations are 15 mcg/600 IU per day up to age 70, and 20 mcg/800 IU per day for anyone over age 71. If vitamin D supplements are advised by a physician, they should always be taken with food for optimal absorption.

Vitamin B12

Deficiencies of vitamin B12 are not unusual in seniors, and even more so for those who take specific prescription drugs (particularly gastric acid inhibitors or metformin). Without adequate vitamin B12, seniors are more vulnerable to developing anemia, nerve damage or neuropathy, depression, balance problems, confusion, poor memory, and dementia.

The National Institutes of Health recommends 2.4 mcg per day, which can be obtained through a diet rich in clams and fish, liver, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and fortified cereals. And unlike other minerals and vitamins, even large quantities of vitamin B12 have not been shown to cause harm, according to the NIH.

Not sure which vitamins for seniors are right for someone you love? Let one of Golden Harmony’s caregivers offer accompaniment and transportation to the doctor’s office to find out. Contact us at 919-426-7522 for more information on how we can help improve older adult health with at-home senior care in Raleigh, NC or the surrounding areas.

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