September is Healthy Aging Month. Getting older is a natural part of life, but it doesn’t mean we have to succumb to poor health. As we age, lean body mass and metabolic rate decrease, which in turn, can affect our ability to effectively absorb certain minerals and vitamins. Although older adults need less calories overall, they still need to get enough nutrients or otherwise may be at risk for a nutrient imbalance or deficiency. The following deficiencies are more common in older adults and as such, special consideration should be given to the following nutrients:
Vitamin B12: Older people are at increased risk of B12 deficiency. As people get older, their ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases. A Vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest as memory loss, confusion, delayed processing, depression, anemia and folic acid deficiency.
Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 supports protein absorption and helps keep your nerves functioning properly. B6 deficiencies are common in older adults and can cause tingling or numbness in feet and hands, fragile skin and mucous membranes, blood problems such as anemia, and a possible higher risk of heart and circulation problems.
Folic Acid: Folate keeps your cells healthy, helps with the production of new red blood cells, helps keep the heart and circulation healthy and is thought to aid in the prevention of cancer. Older adults may be at risk for folate deficiency due to malnutrition, inability to absorb nutrients well, certain medications, alcoholism, and other chronic diseases.
Vitamin D: Older skin is not as efficient as younger skin at producing vitamin D in response to sunlight. Many older people have low vitamin D levels due to lack of exposure to the sun, aging skin, and the use of sunscreen. Vitamin D is not only essential for bone health but is also important for your immune system and overall health.
Calcium: Important for bone density and strength. Calcium deficiency can lead to decreased bone density, lowered mobility, and falls.
Magnesium: Plays an important role in many body processes like glucose and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium deficiency is a risk factor for elderly people and has been implicated in the aging process. It is also associated with several conditions including cardiovascular disorders, insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease, among others.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an important nutrient for older adults for many reasons. This vitamin plays a role in the absorption of proteins, as well as the creation of connective tissue, which is vital for wound healing. Vitamin C also contains antioxidants that may help fight diseases like cancer. Vitamin C also aids iron absorption to help prevent anemia (common in older adults).
Potassium: Consuming adequate potassium contributes to stronger and healthier bones, helps support healthy blood pressure and reduces the risk of kidney stones.
Omega 3 fatty acids: Studies suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids may have substantial benefits in reducing the risk of cognitive decline in older people.
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