- Vitamin D is known to enhance bone density, which is important in later life for falls and osteoporosis
- The term ‘balanced diet’ is a reference to the recommended variety of vitamins and minerals a person should consume to maintain their health
- If a person has struggled with dietary restrictions or requirements, vitamins available in stores or pharmacies may be a good back-up
‘You are what you eat’ is often said in jest, but vitamins prove that there’s more to the common adage. This edition of Aged Care Guide is an overview of the most important vitamins and minerals, along with their sources and importance for an older person’s nutrition.
Vitamin D contributes to bone density which can limit the damage caused by falls, along with the onset and severity of osteoporosis.
The recommended daily dose of vitamin D for adults aged up to 70 is 600 international units [IU], but for adults aged over 70, the recommended dose increases to 800 IU in order to compensate for the toll ageing takes on the ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D.
Vitamin D is derived from a diet of fatty fish, eggs, mushrooms, fortified margarine and fortified milks, along with yoghurt. The majority of vitamin D intake is derived from the sun’s ultraviolet, UV, radiation — so, a simple walk in the sun, with adequate protection, can do wonders for ones’ body. For older Australians, living in residential aged care homes or the body’s inability to process UV radiation into vitamin D may necessitate vitamin supplements.
People with a vitamin D deficiency, known as hypovitaminosis D, may experience symptoms of: bone and muscle aching, fatigue, hair loss, altered mood and cognitive functioning.
Older people may have a reduced gut absorption rate later in life, which requires an increased intake of vitamin B12, known as ‘cyanocobalamin,’ to compensate for the bodily processing. Vitamin B12 is responsible for the breakdown of fatty and amino acids to produce energy, with mental health and blood cell formation related to dietary intake of B12.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 in people over the age of 14 is 2.4 micrograms, although older people are more susceptible to deficiency and, as stated, have a diminished gut absorption rate. Older Australians should consult their doctor to ensure that they have an adequate intake of vitamin B12 when diet is discussed.
People can source vitamin B12 dietary intake through animal products, such as: meat, milk, cheese and eggs. For those with dietary preferences or restrictions, vitamin B12 can be consumed through oral supplements or highly concentrated shots. When a person has presented to a licensed physician with symptoms of a severe B12 deficiency, vitamin shots may be administered, whereas over-the-counter supplements can be purchased from supermarkets or pharmacies in Australia without prescription.
People can’t overdose on vitamin B12, but as they age, the likelihood of ‘hypochlorhydria’ — known as low stomach acid — can necessitate higher doses of supplements or B12-rich foods.
As people age, meeting recommended intake requirements of vitamin K can bolster mobility, prevent cardiovascular disease and help blood to clot rather than bleed excessively when injured.
For people aged 19 years or older, the recommended daily dose of vitamin K is 120 micrograms for men and 90 mcg for women.
Vitamin K is derived from green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages and lettuce. Salads are a great source of vitamin K, as salad dressings which have soybean or canola oils are also rich in vitamin K. Vitamin K2 can be sourced from animal products, such as beef, along with fermented foods such as cheese or sauerkraut.
People rarely develop a vitamin K deficiency, although an adult with deficiency may have an underlying condition such as: cystic fibrosis, digestive disorders that cause fat malabsorption or a blocked bile duct.
It’s estimated that over two-thirds of older adults are at risk for inadequacy of calcium. Calcium, much like vitamin D, is vital for preventing bone fractures, which are common in later life due to the increased likelihood of falls.
The recommended daily dose of calcium for men and women is different depending on the person’s associated age group.
For people aged 19 – 50, the recommended dose is 1,000 milligrams per day, irrespective of gender. For men and women aged 51 – 70, the recommended dose for men is 1,000mg per day and for women, the recommended dose is 1,200mg; whereas for those aged 71 or over, 1,200mg is advised.
Dairy is a well-known source of calcium, but plain yoghurt, mozzarella cheese, non-fat milk and fortified soy milk are among the sources of calcium which give people the most ‘bang’ for their buck. As stated, over-the-counter supplements can be bought and often come in a variety of options, with chewable supplements on offer for people who struggle to take pills.
Sources of calcium for people with lactose intolerance:
For people who are lactose intolerant, yet wish to include their dietary intake of calcium — fortified orange juice, fortified cereal, cooked turnip greens and almonds are all great dairy alternatives.
‘Hypocalcemia’ — a term which denotes a calcium deficiency can have severe consequences if left untreated. People with moderate to severe hypocalcemia may experience:
- Muscle stiffening and/or spasms
- Congestive heart failure
- Memory problems
Please check out the nutrition portal of Aged Care Guide to discover more about staying healthy and young at heart. Which vitamins, minerals and health options have you planned ahead for? Let the team at Aged Care Guide know what you think and it might just end up in the next guide!