Healthy Aging

healthy aging

Vitamins

One a Day? - Vitamins and Aging

There has been recent evidence that as one ages one needs different dietary and dietary supplements.  This should not come as a surprise - we are not the same when we age as when we were once young.  As we age, we tend to eat less (but that does not mean we won't gain weight - but, that's another topic).  Eating less and the changes in our digestive system and skin all have effects on our vitamin levels.  It had been estimated that almost one-third of elderly people have deficiencies in vitamins and important minerals.  
   
Vitamins  
  

Vitamins are sometimes referred
to as the "spark plugs" of our 
human machine.

      

Vitamins

Vitamins are sometimes referred to as the "spark plugs" of our human machine.  They are required to do many things and their excess or depletion can lead to acute and chronic disease.  This is why understanding the vitamins is important in healthy aging.  The vitamins are categorized into two groups: 1) fat-soluble (vitamins A,D,E, K) and 2) water soluble (vitamins B,C, P).  The difference is important because the water soluble vitamins are excreted by the kidneys and it is particularly important to be certain that they are present in our daily consumption.  On the other hand the fat soluble vitamins are stored in fat and other tissues and if we ingest too much they can accumulate and Vitamin A in particular is known to be toxic.  Only vitamins D and K are produced by the body and the others must be either in the food we eat or in a supplemental pill or capsule.  Vitamins A, C, and E are anti-oxidants and data shows they can help prevent cardiac disease and some cancers.

What Changes Elderly Needs for Vitamins?

As mentioned above, older citizens tend to eat less and less balanced meals.  This is a major cause for possible vitamin depletion.  Also many medicines that one takes can change the absorption of vitamins. Some people develop gastritis or bowel changes that also adversely affect the absorption of vitamins.  Vitamin D is dependent on exposure to sunshine (not a problem for most of us at Seabrook) and in someone is not out in the sun and coupled with the changes to everyone's skin as we age, sufficient vitamin D may not be made.  For this reason the daily requirement for vitamin D is greater in elderly than younger people.  Even people who take vitamin supplements may take the pill at night or in the morning without food, and most of the vitamins require fat in our diet to help get optimal absorption.  The point here, is take your supplement with your biggest meal of the day.

Some Problems with Vitamin Deficiency

Vitamin D is necessary for the health of our bones.  If we have insufficient levels of vitamin D this can lead to brittle bones.  It is important to also take a supplement of calcium to maintain bone density and help prevent osteoporosis in patients who are developing this with age.  Vitamin B--12  is important in maintaining mental function.  Vitamin B12 is found naturally in lean red meat, chicken and skim milk.  Folate and vitamins B6 and B12 are required for homocysteine metabolism and have been shown to reduce heart disease if ingested in appropriate concentrations.  The antioxidants potentially reduce the incidence of several chronic illnesses.  The point is that vitamins are important in maintaining our health.

The Bottom Line

Everyone is different.  We all have differing needs with relation to vitamins.  It is important that we discuss our unique needs with a physician.  However, it is safe to recommend in general that as we age some vitamin and dietary supplementation is required.  There are many formulations available over the counter.   We should take the formulation that best suits our needs, understanding that as we age we probably do need a supplement. 

Daily Vitamin and Mineral Needs for the Elderly

Vitamin or Mineral

Daily Quantity

Vitamin D   

600 IU

Vitamin B12   

2.4ug

Calcium

1000-1200mg

Folate

400-1000ug

These are vitamins and minerals particularly crucial to the elderly - Vitamins and minerals are contained in most multi-vitamin preparations and are also of value to the elderly.

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