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The over 60s guide to vitamins

Vitamin and mineral supplements

As we get older it becomes even more important to take care of our bodies. As well as looking toward exercise and healthy eating, many people also consider taking vitamins and minerals to ensure their body is working as efficiently as possible.

In this article we offer a simple guide to vitamins for those in later life, exploring what they actually are, how they can help our bodies and looking at a few of the most popular supplements. Read on to find out everything you need to know.

What are vitamins?

Vitamins are organic compounds that living things need to survive. They are generated by foodstuffs, although different foodstuffs will generate different vitamins and different amounts of vitamins. At present, there are 13 recognised vitamins that the human body needs to function as well as possible. These vitamins come in two types, fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored by the body so are needed less frequently than water-soluble vitamins, which cannot be stored.

What do vitamins do?

Vitamins help to keep our bodies working. Each vitamin will play a different role in how it helps our bodies, but we need all of them to stay healthy. By under-providing your body with a vitamin, you risk health implications in the long term.

What vitamins should I take?

The vitamins you take are going to depend completely on your personal circumstances and factors like your gender, your age, your diet and your general health. There is no set plan for who should be taking vitamins and supplements and who shouldn’t, it changes from person to person.

Before taking any vitamins or supplements, you should first consult your GP who can give you advice on the recommended supplements for you. In fact, if you take vitamins you don’t need, your kidney will flush them out anyway, so you may end up paying for something that isn’t having any effect on you at all.

Below we go through some of the most popular vitamins and minerals people supplement, explain what they do and how much each person should aim for per day.

Food's containing Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12

What does vitamin B12 do?

Vitamin B12 has a lot to do with your blood, helping keep the flow of blood around your body healthy. It is also one of the building blocks of DNA and is essential for a healthy nervous system.

Vitamin B12 tends to be one of the most over-60 recommended vitamins, as it becomes harder for our bodies to absorb in later life. According to the NHS, around 1 in 10 older people over 75 and 1 in 20 people between 65 and 74 have a B12 deficiency.

What foods contain vitamin B12?

B12 is mainly present in foods from animal sources, whether that’s meat, fish, eggs or dairy. You can also find it in yeast extracts like marmite. This is why it’s a supplement that’s commonly taken by those on a low meat diet, vegetarian or vegan.

How much vitamin B12 per day?

The NHS recommends around 1.5 micrograms intake of vitamin B12 daily. For meat-eaters, this is roughly the equivalent of what is provided in just over 100 grams of turkey mince. For those trying to not eat animal products, a serving of Marmite contains 1.9 micrograms of B12 so that can help you get your dose.

Calcium

What does calcium do?

Not a vitamin but a mineral, calcium is another dietary supplement that people may be drawn to supplementing. Calcium is fantastic for keeping bones and teeth healthy, regulating muscle contractions and ensuring blot clots normally around our bodies. A lack of calcium could lead to rickets in childhood or osteoporosis in later life.

What foods contain calcium?

The main places people tend to get their calcium are from dairy products and green vegetables such as kale and okra. It’s also present in fortified products and fish products where the bones are also consumed. As dairy products are one of the main sources of calcium in our diets, those who are lactose intolerant or don’t eat dairy due to their diet may choose to supplement the mineral.

How much calcium per day?

Adults should be getting 700mg of calcium a day, according to the NHS. To put this into context, a pint of milk will often contain about 600mg of calcium. The NHS also suggest people do not consume more than 1,500mg of calcium a day, or they may have stomach pain.

Foods containing Vitamin C

Vitamin C

What does vitamin C do?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a great allrounder as its primary function is to help with the growth, development and repair of body tissue. This means that it is important for making sure many of our body’s functions work properly and as such is great for a range of things, from improving our immune systems to lowering blood pressure and even helping our mental functions.

What foods contain vitamin C?

Vitamin C is most commonly found in fruits and vegetables and so can easily be added to our diets naturally. Citrus fruits are the best when it comes to their vitamin C content, however, you can also get it from many berries, fruits and vegetables. So, if you know you’re getting your 5-a-day the chances are you are already getting enough of this brilliant vitamin.

How much vitamin C per day?

The NHS reports that 40mg of vitamin C is recommended daily. To put this in perspective, a medium-sized orange should give you roughly 70mg. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and therefore cannot be stored in the body, so you’ll need to ensure you are getting some every day.

Couple pusing bikes in sunshine under blossom tree

Vitamin D

What does vitamin D do?

Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, helping with bone and muscle health. Like calcium, Rickets is a good example of what can happen with a vitamin D deficiency in childhood. Vitamin D is also essential for our mental health, and there have been links found between vitamin D deficiency and depression-like symptoms.

What foods contain vitamin D?

Vitamin D is actually not usually gained from food at all but sunlight, which our body converts. There are some foods that contain vitamin D including oily fish, red meat, and egg yolks which can be added to your diet during the colder months to increase vitamin D intake.

How much vitamin D per day?

Adults in the UK should be getting around 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day, according to the NHS. During sunnier months from late March to early September, you should be able to get this from the sunshine alone. However, people can take supplements during the colder months of the year or if they don’t spend much time outdoors, for example, if they are limited in mobility and rely on home help like a curved stair lift.

Iron

What does iron do?

Iron has one purpose in our bodies and a very important one, it helps to make red blood cells. A person who is deficient in iron risks iron deficiency anaemia, which presents symptoms such as tiredness, shortness of breath and pale skin. This is because without red blood cell production our bodies cannot carry oxygen as efficiently.

What foods contain iron?

Luckily, iron can be found in a lot of foods. The most packed would be liver, but you can also find it in red meats. The type of iron found in animal products is called heme iron, but you can also find non-heme iron in foods like beans, grains and pulses. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body, so foods containing this iron tends to be better for getting our daily dose.

How much iron per day?

An adult man, or woman in her later life, should be aiming for around 8.7mg of iron a day. This is different, however, for most women from teenagerhood to adulthood as menstruation causes more iron to be lost from the body. So, for those who are still menstruating, the NHS advises 14.8mg a day.

When used correctly, vitamin and mineral supplements can be a great addition to someone’s health routine. For those who are also looking for other ways to improve their health in the home, our home mobility aids can be great for added independence.

For more tips, guides, and advice, make sure to visit our news page.

This news article is from Companion Stairlifts. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.