Healthy Aging and Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements add nutrition to your diet when you cannot consume enough vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body needs to stay healthy or ward off disease.
People over the age of 50 usually need to consume more vitamins and minerals than young people do. As you grow older, for example, your body has more trouble absorbing vitamin B12, which is important for healthy nerves and red blood cells. You may not get out into the sun as much, either, which could leave your body low on vitamin D.

The best way to get the nutrients you need is to eat a healthy diet, of course, but that is not always possible when you grow older. You might find cooking for one or two to be time-consuming, wasteful or expensive. Your appetite may not be as hearty as it used to be when you were physically active. You might even have trouble eating because of poorly fitting dentures or an illness that causes lack of appetite.
Important Vitamins and Minerals to Supplement

Discuss your need for supplements with your doctor; she or he can help you decide which supplements, if any, you need.

Vitamin B12
Boost your vitamin B12 intake by eating fish, shellfish, meat, dairy products and fortified cereals. According to the National Institute of Aging, you should get 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 each day. You may need a different form of vitamin B12 supplement if you are taking medication for acid reflux.

Calcium works with vitamin D to keep your bones strong and reduce your risk for fractures. Milk, milk products, some canned fish, fortified cereals and dark green, leafy vegetables are rich in calcium. Women over 50 need 1,200 mg of calcium per day, while men between age 51 and 70 need 1,000 mg daily.

Vitamin D
Exposure to sunlight for at least 15 minutes twice per week helps your body manufacture vitamin D. You may not get outside very much as you grow older; this lack of sun exposure leaves you at risk for vitamin D deficiency, which can cause fatigue, along with body aches and pains. The usual vitamin D supplement dose is 600 IU each day.

Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 helps your body develop healthy red blood cells. You get vitamin B6 through potatoes, bananas, chicken breast and in fortified cereals. The usual vitamin B6 supplement dose is 1.7 mg for men and 1.5 mg for women.

Antioxidants protect your body from dangerous free radicals formed during digestion and other body processes. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants; you can get these vitamins through supplements or citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, wheat germ, nuts and seeds, and some types of oils.

Contact your physician, personal nurse or in-home care professional to learn more about dietary supplements.