Vitamins and other supplements have long been a contentious topic in the health care arena. Many providers swear by them and recommend them to most patients. Others believe that many people don't need all the supplements they take and that they're actually wasting money.
As an older adult, you may wonder if supplements would be beneficial to your health and wellness. That's a topic that you should bring up with your health care provider or ask a nutritionist. But you can also do some research online to find out about common vitamins for seniors so that you're prepared to ask the right questions. We've provided a short guide to vitamins for seniors below to get you started.
Vitamin supplements are ways you can get vitamins outside of your normal intake of food and natural activities such as spending time outside (where you get vitamin D from sunlight).
Most people think of pills or gummies when they think of vitamin supplements. But you can also get beverages and beverage mixes that are fortified with vitamins and work as supplements.
The reason anyone of any age would need vitamin supplements is because they aren't getting enough of specific vitamins via food and other means. Some reasons older adults may want to consider vitamin supplements include:
• The aging process can cause the body not to absorb nutrients as efficiently as it used to. That can mean you're not getting the right amount of vitamins on a regular basis even if you're still eating all the right things.
• Older adults may deal with appetite changes that keep them from eating as much. This may be a natural part of the aging process. In some cases, it could be a symptom associated with a chronic condition or a side effect of medication. In all cases, taking in less food can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
It's important to note that vitamins themselves aren't typically treatments for diseases. In rare cases where vitamin treatments may be used to combat a disease or relieve symptoms, over-the-counter multivitamins administered by self-medicating individuals are not a great answer. You should always talk to your doctor about treatment options and whether vitamin supplements might help with any concerns you have.
Understanding some common vitamins that older adults need and might be missing can be helpful for creating a well-balanced diet — including supplements, if necessary. Here are some vitamins that older adults commonly don't get enough of that you may want to talk to your nutritionist or doctor about.
• Vitamin B12. This vitamin helps your body create red blood cells and maintain certain functions, including nerves. But as we age, our ability to absorb vitamin B12 becomes less efficient, which means older adults may need to eat more foods that provide this vitamin than they did when they were younger. Foods that are high in this vitamin include milk and products made from whole milks, eggs and many types of meats and fish.
• Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a regulator of both phosphate and calcium in the body, so it's important in the maintenance of bones, teeth and muscles. The vitamin is also a player when it comes to brain health, lung function, heart health and helping the body regulate insulin. The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun. Your body will make its own supply of this vitamin when exposed to just 15 or so minutes of sunlight a few times a week or more.
• Calcium. Speaking of calcium, seniors still need it. People tend to get less calcium in their diets as they age, but if you're not replenishing this important bone-building mineral, your body will actually take the calcium stored in your bones and use that! This can result in damage to your bones.
• Vitamin B6. This vitamin also helps protect nerves and support red blood cell creation. Older adults with a vitamin B6 insufficiency can up their intake by eating foods such as chicken, potatoes and bananas.
• Magnesium. This is a powerhouse mineral that helps support something like 300 functions in your body, including cardiovascular functions. People tend to absorb magnesium at lower rates when they're older, and medications may impact how your body can take in this mineral. So, even though plenty of foods like vegetables contain magnesium, eating only a few may not be enough. Seniors who want to up their magnesium intake should eat as many fresh fruits and veggies as possible, choosing to replace cooked varieties with salads or items that are simply steamed.
Nutrition is a complex topic, and this blog post only touches very lightly on some of the vitamins and minerals important to older adults. Consult your doctor and other health care providers to understand your needs and whether supplements may be required to ensure you're getting the right amount of these critical ingredients. Residents at the Park Regency assisted living community in Loveland, CO, can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with regular health checks and nutritious meals and snacks provided on a daily basis.