Why Nutritional Supplements Are Beneficial As You Get Older
“We are what we eat,” as the adage goes, but sometimes we don’t eat enough of everything we need to maintain who we are. While a healthy diet can provide most of the nutrients necessary to keep our bodily systems functioning efficiently, many people struggle to eat enough of the right foods to ensure they get and absorb the nutrients needed for optimal health. This holds especially true as we age because our bodies become less efficient at absorbing crucial nutrients. At the same time, other dietary issues can impede our daily intake of all the vitamins and minerals we need for optimal health. Whatever the cause, decreased nutritional intake can compromise health, which may give rise to a vicious cycle that further reduces the intake.
Specially formulated vitamins and supplements can help restore and maintain daily nutritional requirements and enhance overall health. Internal medicine specialist Dr. Diane Brzezinski relies on nutraceuticals—supplements known to provide health benefits with their nutritional value—to help treat Naples, Florida-area patients who may be suffering from nutrient-relate health issues and to support overall health. Let’s look deeper into the connection between nutrition and health and examine what vitamins and minerals seniors should focus on to maintain and optimize their health.
MANY SENIORS STRUGGLE WITH VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
Because our bodies naturally produce vitamin D through exposure to sunshine, many Americans suffer from vitamin D deficiency, especially during the winter months. Older people are more prone to vitamin D deficiency because their aging and thinning skin absorbs less sunlight and may spend less time outdoors. Anyone with a vitamin D deficiency should take a supplement because the vitamin helps the body absorb other nutrients and is critical for calcium absorption, making our bones strong. Research also suggests that vitamin D helps protect the body against illness and infection and plays a role in helping prevent cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and cognitive decline.
INCREASED CALCIUM FOR SENIORS TO OPTIMIZE BONE HEALTH
Along with ensuring adequate vitamin D intake, researchers recommend that seniors boost their calcium intake to promote healthy bones and reduce the risk of age-related fractures. Older people—particularly older women—struggle with calcium deficiency due to poor diets, medications that decrease calcium absorption, and osteoporosis, which weakens bone structure.
TURN TO PROTEIN TO MAINTAIN MUSCLE MASS, ENHANCE IMMUNE FUNCTION
The older we get, the harder it becomes to build and sustain muscle mass. Because protein is the building block of muscle mass, seniors must regularly consume enough of it to maintain their muscles. Researchers also believe that healthy muscle mass in seniors provides a powerful boost to their immune system. However, many seniors’ diets fail to provide their bodies with enough protein, especially if they are struggling with an acute or chronic disease. Supplements offer the best means of helping seniors overcome protein deficiencies.
OUR BODIES DO NOT STORE B VITAMINS
Older people produce less stomach acid, affecting our ability to break down and absorb B vitamins such as B12 and B6. Additionally, unlike most other nutrients, B vitamins must be absorbed daily because our bodies do not store them. This can also prove problematic for seniors who need to eat more of the right foods to meet their daily requirements.
Vitamin b12 is essential for optimal cognitive function, and deficiencies are connected to dementia. Our body uses vitamin B6 to help store and use energy, which is instrumental in producing healthy red blood cells. Other B vitamins support the health of nerves, muscles, skin, eyes, and the digestive system.
POTASSIUM DEFICIENCIES AFFECT BLOOD PRESSURE, KIDNEYS
Older adults may be more prone to potassium deficiencies because of certain medications, health issues, lost appetite, dehydration, and too much sodium. Keeping adequate potassium levels is critical to maintaining proper heart rate and blood pressure, and potassium deficiencies can raise blood pressure to dangerous levels. Potassium deficiencies can also impede kidney function and increase the risk of developing kidney stones.
DON’T FORGET YOUR VITAMIN C!
While seniors are not necessarily more prone to vitamin C deficiency than younger folks, this vitamin plays a critical role in health maintenance and is thus worth emphasizing. Vitamin C helps our bodies produce and protect white blood cells, allowing our immune systems to fight diseases and infections. The vitamin also helps our bodies absorb iron, which helps the body produce the blood’s oxygen-transporting hemoglobin. Researchers also believe that it can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
OTHER NUTRIENTS THAT ENHANCE SENIOR’S HEALTH
Some other nutrients that aging adults might need to consider supplementing by making changes to their diets or by taking nutraceuticals like those offered by Dr. B include:
- Vitamin A
- Omega fatty acids
CONSULT WITH DR. B TO ASSESS YOUR NUTRIENT NEEDS
If you are concerned about not getting enough nutrients as you age or would like to learn how nutraceuticals can enhance your overall health, Dr. B would be happy to consult with you. You can contact Dr. B’s Naples-based Internal Medicine practice today at (239) 256-5992.