Health supplements or dietary supplements can be helpful at any age. They can also have unfavorable side effects, such as hazardous interactions with your prescription drugs. For some people, health supplements might also not even function at all.
If you’re 50 and above, there are a handful of supplements that you may require as an aging adult. This is because aging can result in a decline in your nutrient status or an increase in your need for specific vitamins and minerals. For these reasons, you may need to take a few supplements.
It’s important that you understand the supplements you’re taking and the rationale for them. If you are contemplating taking health supplements, discuss them with your doctor.
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What are health supplements?
Health supplements are substances you may use to increase the nutrients in your diet or to reduce your chances of developing conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis. Dietary supplements are available in the form of:
- Gel caps
Health supplements may contain enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber, herbs, or other plants. Sometimes, the ingredients in health supplements are added to drinks and foods. You don’t need a doctor’s prescription to buy health supplements.
Should you take health supplements?
The best way to get the nutrients you need is by eating a variety of healthy foods. However, you may not be consuming enough vitamins and minerals from your diet on a given day. When that happens, your doctor may recommend a dietary supplement to make up for your deficient nutrients.
If you are thinking about using health supplements, your first step is to do as much research as you can on any supplements you are considering taking. If in doubt, speak to your doctor, pharmacist, or a licensed dietician. It’s possible that a supplement may not work for you even though it worked for someone else you know.
Also, a supplement may not necessarily be safe or healthy for you just because its label describes it as “natural.” It might have negative or untoward effects on you as an individual. The health supplement may either weaken or strengthen a prescription medication that you’re already taking. It can also potentially hurt you if you have certain medical conditions.
Talk to your doctor about taking health supplements
Before starting on nutritional supplements, you should talk to your doctor. Do this especially if you suffer from health conditions that may be adversely affected by the use of certain health supplements.
Don’t try to diagnose or treat any medical condition with a supplement without first discussing it with your doctor. Always remember that some medications can interact with health supplements that you may be taking.
Health supplements for older adults
If you’re over age 50, you may need more of certain vitamins and minerals than you did as a younger adult. If you don’t consume enough of them in your daily diet, your doctor or a nutritionist can advise you whether you need to change your diet or take a vitamin or mineral supplement to boost your intake of those components.
Here are some of the health supplements that you may need as an aging adult over 50:
This is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps your body to absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus. Calcium and phosphorus are critical for building your bones.
Studies have shown that vitamin D can reduce the growth of cancer cells, help control infections and reduce inflammation in your body.
Vitamin D production in your skin is the primary natural source of vitamin D. You may have insufficient levels if you live in a place where sunlight is limited in winter, or because you have limited sun exposure due to being inside much of the time.
This hormone is harder to produce in your skin as you age. If you spend more time indoors and are not exposed to sunlight, your vitamin D levels can deplete.
Your doctor may frequently use your blood test to check your vitamin D levels to determine if a supplement is necessary for you. If you have low vitamin D levels, it can lead to certain health conditions, including bone loss, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, depression, and cancer.
Vitamin D deficiency may occur from a lack in your diet, poor absorption, or your metabolic need for higher amounts. If you’re not eating enough vitamin D and you don’t receive enough ultraviolet sun exposure over an extended period, a deficiency may arise.
Only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D, although some foods are fortified with the vitamin. Your best option for getting enough vitamin D may be taking health supplements because it is hard to get enough of it through your diet.
The best form of vitamin D supplement is vitamin D3, the active, animal source of vitamin D. Few foods are found to be naturally rich in vitamin D3. The best sources are fatty fish and fish liver oils. Smaller amounts can be found in cheese, egg yolks, and beef liver.
Certain mushrooms contain some vitamin D2 and some commercially sold mushrooms contain higher amounts of D2 due to their being exposed to high amounts of ultraviolet light. Many foods and health supplements are fortified with vitamin D like dairy products and cereals.
The following are good sources of vitamin D:
- Cod liver oil
- Dairy and plant milk fortified with vitamin D
- Tuna fish
- Fortified cereals
- Beef liver
- Egg yolk
- Orange juice fortified with vitamin D
- Cod Liver Oil
- Fortified Cereals
- Beef Liver Supplement
Most people in the United States consume less than recommended amounts of vitamin D . As stated earlier, the best form of vitamin D health supplements you may take is vitamin D3. As an older adult, you’ll need to take about 800 IUs of vitamin D3 every day to help reduce your risk of falls and fractures.
Discuss with your doctor about adding vitamin D-fortified milk or milk products, fatty fish, or vitamin D-fortified cereals to your diet, or using a vitamin D health supplement to boost your daily intake.
This is one of the most essential minerals that your body requires on a daily basis. Calcium works with vitamin D to keep your bones strong at all ages. If you’re an older man or woman, bone loss can lead to fractures.
Calcium can also help with your cardiovascular health, and help reduce high blood pressure. Its deficiency can lead to osteoporosis – a condition of brittle bones.
This mineral is found in milk and milk products, dark-green leafy vegetables such as kale, canned fish with soft bones, and foods with calcium added (such as breakfast cereals). A cup of milk contains about 300 mg of highly absorbable calcium.
If you’re a woman over age 50, you need about 1,200 mg (milligrams) of calcium health supplements each day. If you’re a man, you’ll need a daily requirement of about 1,000 mg if you’re between age 51 and 70 and 1,200 mg after age 70. You should not take more than 2,000 mg a day.
This vitamin is beneficial for the good health of your nerves and red blood cells. This energy-giving vitamin is difficult to absorb in your digestive tract. As you get older, this absorption decreases dramatically.
Approximately 1 in 31 elderly adults aged 51 or older have low vitamin B12 levels of below 200 pg/mL. Additionally, since vitamin B12 is only found in animal products and fortified foods, a vegetarian diet might not give you enough of it.
While older persons require the same amount of vitamin B12 as other adults, you may have problems absorbing this vitamin as you get older. If this happens, your doctor may recommend that you consume foods like fortified cereals with this vitamin added or take B12 health supplements.
Due to the fact that animal products are the only natural food source of vitamin B12, if you’re a strict vegetarian or a vegan, you’re more likely to have vitamin B12 deficiency. Talk with your doctor to determine if taking a B12 health supplement is appropriate.
The recommended daily dose of vitamin B12 health supplements is 2.4 mcg (micrograms). Note that if you are taking medicine for acid reflux, you might need a different form, which your health care provider can give you information about.
Magnesium is a key component in making several parts of your body run smoothly – your heart, muscles, nerves, bones, and others. It plays an important role in helping more than 300 other enzymes to carry out various chemical reactions in your body such as:
- building proteins and strong bones
- regulating blood pressure
- regulating blood sugar
- helping with muscle and nerve functions.
Magnesium also acts as an electrical conductor that contracts your muscles and makes your heart beat steadily. As you get older, your magnesium intake becomes less.
Aging also causes decreased absorption of magnesium in your gut and increased excretion in your urine. Also, you’re more likely to be on medications for chronic diseases that can lower magnesium storage in your body.
The recommended dietary allowance of magnesium health supplements for adults is 400-420 mg daily for men and 310-320 mg for women.
If you have a magnesium deficiency, some of the symptoms you’ll experience may include muscle spasms or muscle tightness, chronic constipation, high blood pressure, and environmental allergies. Magnesium deficiency is also often present if you suffer from diabetes or heart disease.
It is found in plant foods like dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds, whole grains, and fortified cereals. It can also be found in poultry, fish, and beef.
Potassium is an essential mineral that is needed by all tissues in your body. It is another important electrolyte that helps in reducing your blood pressure and maintaining electrolyte balance within the cells in your body.
It is found naturally in many foods and as a health supplement. It’s a good idea to ensure that you eat enough potassium-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products like milk and yogurt. This will go a long way to ensure that your blood pressure stays within normal ranges.
There are some medications that can affect potassium levels in your blood. Therefore, it is important that you check with your doctor before taking a potassium supplement.
The recommended health supplements dietary allowance (RDA) for women aged 19+ is 2,600 mg and 3,400 mg for men 19+.
Omega-3 fatty acids
These are essential fats and are health supplements that form an integral part of the cell membranes throughout your body. They affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes and provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, relaxation of artery walls, contraction, and inflammation.
Omega 3 fatty acids are heart healthy and help protect your arteries from the inflammation that can cause cholesterol deposits in your body.
Most often, aging comes with inflammation. The best way around this is to consume anti-inflammatory foods such as Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods.
Foods that are rich in Omega-3 include fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.
You may eat 2-3 oz of fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, or mackerel a couple of times per week, or take a health supplement. When you purchase these health supplements, you should ensure that it is contained in a light-resistant bottle.