As we age, taking care of our bodies becomes even more important. As well as exercise and healthy eating, many people also consider taking vitamins and minerals to ensure their body works as efficiently as possible.
This article offers a simple guide to vitamins for over 60s, exploring what they are, how they can help our bodies and a few of the most popular supplements. Read on to find out everything you need to know.
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. 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. The body can store fat-soluble vitamins, so they are needed less frequently than water-soluble vitamins, which cannot be stored.
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 not giving your body the necessary vitamins, you risk health implications in the long term.
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 take vitamins and supplements and who shouldn’t; it changes from person to person.
Before taking any vitamins or supplements, consult your GP, who can advise you on the recommended supplements. If you take vitamins you don’t need, your kidney will flush them out anyway, so you may end up paying for something that doesn’t affect 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.
Vitamin B12 has a lot to do with your blood, helping to keep a healthy blood flow around your body. 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.
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 commonly taken by those on a low-meat diet or who are vegetarian or vegan.
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 not to eat animal products, a serving of Marmite contains 1.9 micrograms of B12, which can help you get your dose.
Vitamin B6 is important for brain development and keeping the nervous and immune systems healthy. Vitamin B6 offers numerous health benefits, such as preventing amenia, improving mood, promoting brain health, protecting the heart, and reducing the risks of cancer and eye disease.
Vitamin B6 can be found in several foods, including poultry, fish, potatoes, chickpeas, bananas and fortified cereals. Many of these are classic staples of a healthy, balanced diet, so if you are consuming food like this, you should receive a normal amount of vitamin B6.
After age 50, the recommended daily amount of vitamin B6 is 1.5 milligrams for women and 1.7 milligrams for men. For those under age 50, the recommended daily amount is 1.3 milligrams.
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.
People get calcium mainly from dairy products and green vegetables such as kale and okra. It’s also present in fortified and fish products, where the bones are 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.
According to the NHS, adults should get 700mg of calcium daily. To put this into context, a pint of milk will often contain about 600mg of calcium. The NHS also suggests people do not consume more than 1,500mg of calcium daily, or they may have stomach pain.
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 to make sure many of our body’s functions work properly andis great for many things, from improving our immune systems to lowering blood pressure and even helping our mental functions.
Vitamin C is most commonly found in fruits and vegetables and 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.
The NHS reports that 40mg of vitamin C is recommended daily, so to put this in perspective, a medium-sized orange should give you roughly 70mg. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that cannot be stored in the body, so you’ll need to ensure you get some every day.
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 between vitamin D deficiency and depression-like symptoms.
Vitamin D is not usually gained from food but from sunlight, which our body converts. Some foods 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.
According to the NHS, adults in the UK should get around 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily. 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 if they don’t spend much time outdoors, such as those with limited mobility who rely on aids like a stair lift.
Iron has one purpose in our bodies and is a very important one; it helps to make red blood cells. A person deficient in iron risks iron deficiency anaemia, which presents symptoms such as tiredness, shortness of breath and pale skin. This is because our bodies cannot carry oxygen efficiently without red blood cell production.
Luckily, iron can be found in many foods. The most iron-rich is liver, but you can also find it in red meats. The type of iron found in animal products is heme iron, but you can also find non-heme iron in foods like beans, grains and pulses. The body more easily absorbs heme iron, so foods containing this iron tend to be better for getting our daily dose.
An adult man, or woman in her later life, should aim for around 8.7mg of iron daily. 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 at home, our home mobility aids can be great for added independence.
While not technically a vitamin, many people take magnesium as part of their vitamin routine. As we age, magnesium absorption becomes more difficult and can be affected by various medications. This important mineral helps to increase energy, calms nerves and anxiety and can even help those who struggle to sleep through the night.
To ensure you get enough of this mineral, eat green leafy vegetables, nuts, brown rice, fish, meat and dairy.
Most people should get the recommended amount of magnesium from their diet (300mg daily for men and 270mg daily for women). Although it’s uncommon to experience a magnesium deficiency, if you are concerned at all, consult your GP before taking any supplements.
Omega-3 fats are fatty acids that reduce symptoms associated with old age, such as rheumatoid arthritis. It has also been suggested that Omega-3 fatty acids help to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, which often reduces vision in elderly people.
With so many benefits, it’s recommended that those with limited mobility maintain a good intake of Omega-3 fatty acids. Fortunately, they can be found in salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel. If you don’t eat fish regularly, taking Omega-3 supplements to boost your intake is perfectly fine. These are available at pharmacies and supermarkets—alternatively, snack on walnuts which are also rich in Omega-3.
Charity Heart UK recommends that people “aim to get 500mg of EPA and DHA combined each day; this works out as around the same as a 140g portion of oily fish per week.”
The nutritional needs of women may change as they age due to various factors, such as shifts in metabolism, hormones, and health conditions. As a result, supporting a woman’s health with vitamins in certain circumstances can be helpful.
Some of the best vitamins for over 60 females include vitamin D and calcium, as women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men, and these vitamins can help maintain bone health.
Vitamin B12 is helpful as many older adults, especially females, have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 from food.
Vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid) is crucial during childbearing years to prevent neural tube defects in babies. For women over 60, folate is important for cardiovascular health and supporting healthy red blood cell production.
As you can see, there are some beneficial vitamins for over 60s to take, helping older people look after their bodies. If you are worried that you might have a deficiency, speak to your GP for advice on what vitamins you might be missing out on.
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