Supplements You Need after Age 50
There are a handful of supplements that aging adults require, as age can cause a decline in nutrient status, or an increase in need for certain vitamins and minerals.
1. Vitamin D
This hormone is harder to produce in the skin with age, and when individuals remain indoors and not exposed to sunlight, stores and vitamin levels can plummet. Most physicians recommend a blood test of vitamin D levels to ascertain if a supplement is necessary. The best form to supplement with is vitamin D3, or the active, animal source of vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels can lead to many health conditions, including depression, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, cancer, and bone loss. Older adults who take just 800 IUs of vitamin D3 each day can help reduce the risk of fractures and falls.
Calcium is one of those all-important minerals that the body requires on a daily basis. If you don’t consume enough, your body will pull stored calcium from bone tissue, and over time this can lead to a condition called osteopenia, and if this condition worsens, can lead to osteoporosis—a condition of brittle bones. Calcium can also help with weight loss, cardiovascular health, and help reduce high blood pressure. Most older adults need about 1,000mg of calcium each day. To put this in perspective—one (1) cup of milk has about 300mg of highly absorbable calcium.
3. Vitamin B12
This energy-giving vitamin is extremely difficult to absorb in the digestive tract. With age, this absorption decreases dramatically, and approximately 1 in 31 of elderly adults aged 51 or older have low vitamin B12 levels (<200pg/mL). Vitamin B12 is also only sourced from animal and fortified foods, meaning the vegetarian diet may not provide enough of this vitamin. Sublingual vitamin B12 supplements are an option, to allow vitamin B12 to enter the bloodstream under the tongue, and vitamin B12 shots are also an option. The best way to assess vitamin B12 status is to test methylmalonic acid levels, and if they are elevated, a deficiency in vitamin B12 is most likely present.
4. EPA/DHA Omega 3 fatty acids
With age, comes inflammation. There’s just no way around it, except to consume anti-inflammatory foods such as omega-3 fatty acids. Adults can consume 2-3 oz of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, or sardines a couple of times per week, or take a supplement. When choosing a supplement, make sure it is packed in a light-protective bottle. Test one capsule by breaking it open, checking for a fishy odor – as this could indicate the oil inside has gone rancid. Omega -3s are heart healthy and help protect your arteries from the inflammation that causes cholesterol deposits.
The perfect mineral counterpoint to calcium, magnesium is a very important electrolyte, responsible for muscle relaxation, blood flow, and proper glucose balance. Some of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency include chronic constipation, muscle spasms or muscle tightness, high blood pressure, and environmental allergies. Magnesium deficiency is also often present in people with diabetes and heart disease. The best way to test magnesium levels is to look at the amount of magnesium on red blood cells, also called Magnesium, RBC by the lab.
Potassium is another important electrolyte, which is very helpful for reducing blood pressure, and maintaining electrolyte balance within the cell. Certain medications can affect potassium levels in the blood, and so you’ll want to check with your doctor before taking a potassium supplement. It’s a better idea to ensure you are eating potassium-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products like milk and yogurt. This will go a long way to ensure your blood pressure stays in a healthy range.
Van Grevenhof J, Funderburg K. Prevention of nutritional deficiencies in the elderly. J Okla State Med Assoc. 2003 Mar;96(3):150-3.
Leif Mosekilde. Vitamin D and the elderly. Clinical Endocrinology (2005) 62, 265–281.