11 August, 2017
With age, we need a lot more nutrition than we really are getting. The reason behind it is that our bodies aren't as good at absorbing nutrients as it used to earlier. That is when vitamin and mineral deficiencies tend to set in leading to health issues. Some medications can also affect appetite. Seniors without social interaction might tend to reduce eating because they don't want to eat alone.
What nutrients do we all need and where can we find them?
Calcium: It is very important for bone density and strength. It is found in dark leafy greens and dairy products, as well as calcium-specific supplements. Calcium deficiency can lead to decreased bone density, lowered mobility, and falls.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D works with Calcium to promote bone health and strength. It is naturally absorbed by the body through sunlight, t is also found in certain types of fish and fortified foods like orange juice or milk.
Magnesium: This plays a major part in many body processes like glucose and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium is found in many plant and animal food sources, especially dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C plays a role in the absorption of proteins, as well as in generating connective tissue, which is vital for wound healing. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are the best sources of Vitamin C, like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
Vitamin E: The antioxidant qualities of Vitamin E allow it to combat disease-causing free radicals. This vitamin also supports immune system functioning. Vitamin E can be found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.
Vitamin B6: B Vitamins perform many functions in the body, primarily supporting protein absorption and cognitive function. The richest sources of B vitamins are fish, organ meats (like liver), potatoes, and other starchy vegetables.
How do deficiencies occur?
Calcium and Vitamin D are two of the most important nutrients for bone health. Compared to younger people, seniors are especially vulnerable to calcium and vitamin D deficiency largely because the body changes with advancing age. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and protects from osteoporosis, has a role in cell growth and immune function. The recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin D for ages 51 to 70 is 600 IU. For those older than 70 years, it's 800 IU.
Those most at risk are "self-neglecting elders,” which includes senior citizens who have difficulty taking care of themselves appropriately, live alone and have no support system. A decrease in dietary calcium intake occurs due to decreased overall calorie intake. For example, seniors may have poor appetite in general or illnesses that decrease appetite.
There might also be decrease in the intestinal absorption of calcium. Also less frequent exposure to sunlight as we tend to decrease our outdoor activities. Vitamin D is produced in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight, less sun exposure may lead to poor Vitamin D status. This is a special problem in elderly who are housebound or have reduced mobility. Also, as we age the skin produces 4-times less vitamin D when exposed to the sun, as compared to younger people. For all these reasons, calcium and vitamin D intake recommendations are higher in seniors.
Vitamin B12 deficiency also can be a problem for senior citizens. B12 is required for proper red-blood-cell growth and neurological function, but as with vitamin D, the elderly have trouble with absorption. Senior citizens specifically require a crystalline form of B12.
Most of the other vitamin deficiencies occur due to a decrease in food intake and changes in food preferences. Ageing isn’t as deteriorating as it is projected to be, provided we take the necessary steps to see that it truly isn’t. All that is needed is being conscious about what we eat, how much we eat, and making sure we eat what we need to eat!
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