Be sure you are recommending the best vitamins for your older patients to help with healthy aging.
With age comes wisdom, so the saying goes .But advanced years may also mean an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, arthritis and other age-related conditions. Some medical experts suggest that this might be a good time to consider adding some vitamin supplements to your dietary regimen.
According to the National Institute on Aging , adults 50 and older might need more of some specific vitamins than their younger counterparts, due to a growing inability to absorb certain nutrients. But before heading to the local pharmacy or health food store, the NIA urges consumers to learn as much as you can about the vitamin(s) you intend to take. Also, talk with your doctor about potential side effects and interactions with prescription medications. The site also recommends looking into the science behind the vitamin. According to the site, “The company making the dietary supplement should be able to send you information on the safety and/or effectiveness of the ingredients in a product, which you can then discuss with your doctor.”
Fitness guru Cathy Friedrich notes that vitamin B12 deficiency is common, especially in older people. She explains that the body needs vitamin B12 “to make healthy red blood cells and to make myelin, the sheath that covers nerves.” She adds that those with low vitamin B12 “develop anemia and neurological problems that can lead to complete paralysis.” Also, those who use proton pump inhibitors, drugs that address peptic ulcer and gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms, don’t absorb B12 adequately because they have lower levels of stomach acid.
Scott Michael Schreiber, DC, DACRB, DCBCN, agrees that the amount of vitamin B12 in the body tends to diminish as we age. “Even a small deficiency can lead to dementia,” he says. “When getting B12 checked, ask for a methylmalonic acid test and a homocysteine test in addition to serum B12 levels. The methylmalonic test is great at detecting an early B12 deficiency.”
Older adults run the risk of decreased heart function, according to an article published in the journal Circulation. The aging process increases the work of pumping the blood throughout the body. This added burden can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, a slower or faster heartbeat or dizziness. Multi-functional omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and are good for your heart and brain, Schreiber asserts. “Studies show that as we age, we lose the ability to absorb DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid,” he says. “Adding an omega 3 fatty acid to your diet will keep the heart and the brain functioning properly. Again, it is almost impossible to consume too much because the American population is so deficient.”
One of the most common conditions of aging is an increased risk of bone fracture, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Approximately four in ten white women 50 and older will experience a hip, spine or wrist fracture; the percentage in black women is usually lower. But in most cases, osteoporosis is typically the underlying cause.
Schreiber attributes this age-related condition to a vitamin D deficiency and a lack of weight-bearing exercise. “Vitamin D, together with calcium, will keep the bones strong and prevent fractures,” he says. “Vitamin D can also ward off chronic pain and protect against cancer.”
However, Schreiber warns that excess amounts of vitamin D can be toxic and could result in nausea. Also, taking the right type of vitamin D can make a difference. “Make sure you get a D3 instead of D2 supplement, as it is more readily converted to the active form,” he says.
Folate, a man-made form of vitamin B, is recommended for pregnant women to help prevent birth defects. But folic acid, which is often added to cereals, breads, pasta, cookies and baked goods, is also recommended for older adults.
According to Schreiber, folate prevents heart disease by regulating homocysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid that, at high levels, can increase the risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and osteoporosis. “In addition, folate prevents cancer, which is all important as we age,” Schreiber adds.
Schreiber emphasizes the importance of choosing a supplement that contains folate, the natural form, which is better absorbed. “Folic acid is the synthetic form and is barely absorbed,” he says. “Also, folate is water soluble, meaning that in excess, it is excreted in the urine.”
For specific recommendations on dosage, consult The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which provides a comprehensive chart.