Vitamins for Older Adults: Benefits or Just Hype?

senior lady holding supplement and glass of water

CarewWorks Health Services shares details about the most important vitamins for older adults.

Minerals, supplements, and vitamins for older adults – oh my! 70% of seniors are taking them; but are they actually necessary as we grow older? After all, a balanced and healthy diet offers older adults essential nutrients. But there are specific instances of deficiency that could make a case for the addition of a supplement. Be sure to seek advice from the doctor before making any changes, but with their recommendation or approval, consider the following:

Calcium

Older bones are prone to fractures and breaks when calcium intake is inadequate. This is particularly 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 at an increased risk for 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 best natural sources for calcium are leafy greens, salmon, kale, broccoli, and dairy products, but the majority of men over age 70 and women over age 50 are not getting sufficient calcium from food alone. The NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements recommends 1,200 mg of calcium each day 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 just 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 risk of skin cancer can cause roadblocks to getting adequate levels.

Recommendations are 15 mcg/600 IU per day up to age 70, and 20 mcg/800 IU per day for individuals 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 people who take certain medicines (particularly metformin or gastric acid inhibitors). Without a sufficient amount of vitamin B12, seniors are far more prone to developing anemia, neuropathy or nerve damage, depression, balance problems, confusion, poor memory, and dementia.

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

Unsure which dietary supplements are suitable for a senior you love? Let one of CareWorks Health Services’ care providers supply accompaniment and transportation to the doctor’s office to find out. Call us at (949) 859-4700 for additional details on how we will help enhance older adult health with Huntington Beach senior care. For a full list of all of the communities where our professional in-home care services are available, please visit our Service Area page.