A nutrient-dense diet is important to maintain good health, because certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are essential to our well-being. As we grow older, though, getting the nutrients we need can become more complicated. Because older people often face dietary challenges, it may be necessary to take dietary supplements. However, some research suggests that older Americans may be taking too many supplements. How do you know which supplements to take, and which are unnecessary? Here, we offer some advice about essential vitamins and supplements for people over 60 years old.
First, why would older people need supplements more than younger people? We know that the best way to stay in good health is to eat well and exercise, but sometimes these habits become more difficult as we age. It’s common for older people to suffer from appetite loss, and many don’t cook as often as they did when they were younger, relying instead on ready-to-eat meals that may lack important nutrients. What’s more, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing nutrients from food, and many healthy foods become difficult for us to chew or digest. Some medications block the absorption of nutrients, and seniors may not be able to exercise because of health conditions. Additionally, seniors who don’t get enough exposure to sunlight can experience a drop in vitamin D levels.
If you are concerned that you may not be getting the nutrients you need from the foods you are eating, ask your doctor if you should take supplements. Some nutrients that are important for seniors but may be lacking in their diets include:
- Calcium: Found in dairy products, canned fish with soft bones, dark green leafy vegetables, and calcium fortified foods, calcium helps prevent bone loss that can lead to fractures. It’s important for people over 30 to consume calcium every day, not just for bone health, but also for muscle and nerve function, blood clotting, and heart health.
- Vitamin D: Sunlight helps your body create vitamin D, so aiming for a few minutes of daily sun exposure, preferably around midday, is an effective way to prevent vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D plays a role in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and it can help ward off serious health issues like osteoporosis, cancer, depression, and muscle weakness. Many people in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient, partly because there are not many foods that contain significant amounts of this nutrient. To add more vitamin D to your diet, eat fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, and foods fortified with vitamin D. If you think you are lacking vitamin D, you want to take cod liver oil or a vitamin D supplement.
- Vitamin B6: Crucial to the formation of red blood cells, this B vitamin is found in potatoes, bananas, fortified cereals, and chicken breasts.
- Vitamin B12: Sometimes older adults have trouble absorbing this vitamin, which helps keep nerves and red blood cells healthy. Natural food sources of vitamin B12 are limited to animal foods, but some cereals are fortified with this vitamin. Talk to your doctor and ask if you should be taking a B12 supplement.
It’s important to note that, unlike medications, vitamins and other supplements are not tested by the FDA for safety or efficacy. Before you take any dietary supplement, then, it’s important to learn as much as you can about it, preferably from your doctor or a registered dietician. Be wary of internet sources, and always check the reliability of the source. Remember that “natural” does not necessarily mean safe or good for you, and sometimes natural supplements can interfere with medications you have been prescribed. Be careful about supplements, checking with your doctor before you start anything new, and verifying that any claims made about the supplement are scientifically accurate. Remember, while supplements can be part of a healthy lifestyle, the best way to take in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients like antioxidants is to eat a diet full of nutritious foods.
At Parkwood Heights, we prioritize the health and happiness of our residents, and we know that a big part of staying healthy is eating a well-balanced diet that delivers essential nutrients, whether or not you take supplements. Our residents enjoy delicious, appealing, chef-prepared food, and our chefs are well-versed in creating delicious dishes using low-sodium, heart-healthy cooking techniques. That’s one of the reasons this is a great place to live your best life. A lovely community in which to spend your retirement, Parkwood Heights is located just minutes from Victor, Fairport, Farmington, and Canandaigua. Our picturesque, 122-acre senior living campus affords many opportunities to enjoy your time with friends and family while enjoying our scenic setting. Call (315) 986-9100 to learn more about all that we have to offer, or check out our website and reach out if you have any questions.