Nutrition experts weight in on the essentials nutrients we need to ensure we are getting enough. Getting older doesn't need to mean deteriorating when you are well nourished.
Our nutritional needs change as a result of numerous factors including our current state of health, present diseases, digestion - nutrient absorption ability, our regular activity levels and more. This is unique to each individual however according to The Health in Aging Foundation the list below comprises the most commonly occurring nutrient deficiencies in older adults.
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The B Vitamins
B6, B12, folate (folic acid). All of which can lead to serious complications.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
B6 is needed to keep your nerves functioning properly and deficiency can result in with those who are malnourished or have absorption issues.
In older adults, B6 deficiencies are common, and may cause:
- Tingling or numbness in feet and hands
- Fragile skin and mucus membranes
- Blood problems like anemia
- Possible higher risk of heart and circulation problems
B12 is important in creating red blood cells and DNA as well as maintaining healthy nerves function. Deficiency is particularly common due to inadequate nutrient intake as well as compromised ability to absorb nutrients (typically related to reduced stomach acid and digestive enzymes). In addition histories of stomach or intestine surgery, long-time use of antacids and medications as well as alcoholism play a factor in causing deficiencies.
B12 deficiency can cause severe nerve problems and anemia along with the health issues listed below:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of appetite
- Balance problems
- Shortness of breath, especially during exercise
- Poor concentration, confusion, even dementia in severe cases
- Pale skin or gums (signs of anemia)
- Bleeding gums and red, swollen tongue
- Numbness or tingling in your hands and feet.
Folate/Folic Acid (a B vitamin)
Folate, or folic acid, keeps your cells healthy, helps in the production of new red blood cells and in the prevention of cancer. In addition it keeps homocysteine, (a factor in heart disease) at healthy levels. Folate is found in many foods including artificially fortified foods, and dietary supplements. Malnutrition is related to nutrient absorption challenges, certain medications, kidney dialysis, liver disease, alcoholism and other chronic diseases.
Folate deficiency can cause the following symptoms:
- High homocysteine levels
- Fatigue and weakness
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Irritability, forgetfulness, and other unusual behaviors
- Sore tongue
Calcium – well known for bone and teeth health, calcium plays many roles including helping the body maintain alkalinity. When we are deficient, this vital mineral is leeched from our bones.
Vitamin D – aids in calcium absorption, maintaining bone density and preventing osteoporosis, as well as aids in reducing inflammation. It may help with retaining telomeres length, and protecting against chronic diseases including cancer, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune disease and multiple sclerosis. Supplementation of Vit D3 is suggested by most health care professionals.
Magnesium - involved in approx. 300 different physiological processes it augments heart health, bone strength, aids in energy production, and digestion of protein, fats and carbs, muscle relation, and acts as a precursor for serotonin aiding in better sleep. In addition it is especially important to sustain a proper balance between calcium and magnesium. Excess calcium without sufficient magnesium can cause muscle spasms including increased heart attack risk. Signs of deficiency include loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness and headaches.
Potassium – also involved in bone health, this essential nutrient helps to reduce high blood pressure and the risk of kidney stones.
Omega 3 fatty acids – they are cardio-protective, with lipid-lowering effects, reduce blood pressure, aid in inflammation reduction including that associated with rheumatoid arthritis and in slowing the progression of age related macular degeneration. Omega 3s may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s as well.
Coenzyme CoQ10 - producing cellular energy and protects mitochondria from damage. Its use in improving vascular function in heart disease.
Turmeric – cancer fighting, pain relief and anti-inflammatory, enhances immune system and protects brain mitochondria against oxidative stress and amyloid plaque formation associated with Alzheimer’s disease. http://www.alive.com/health/aging-positively/
Stay tuned for next week I will share the most recent article I wrote for the canfitpro fitness professional magazine.