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Common Dietary Deficiencies in Seniors

Common Dietary Deficiencies in Seniors
May 06
18:36 2019

A lot of physical things change as we get older.

We lose muscle mass and tone. Our skin loses some of its elasticity and the outer layers thin. For many of us, men and women, our hair gets thinner in diameter and thinner in covering our head and other areas. Many tend to see their eyesight diminish resulting in the need for glasses or new glasses. Many of us men see our chests migrate down to our bellies and sadly, many women experience a similar problem. Our immune systems often weaken, making us more susceptible to a number of aliments. Additionally, some diseases and health conditions that are the result of years of living tend to start showing up more often as we reach our golden years.

Face it, our bodies change as does our entire internal system. Our dietary needs change. Even our likes and dislikes of some foods and drinks change.

Aging has its challenges and one of those challenges is keeping up with our nutritional needs. With the changes in diet, likes and dislikes, many seniors, whether they realize it or not, find themselves facing one or more nutritional deficiencies.

The more common nutritional facing many seniors includes:

  • Calcium – Calcium not only helps keep our bones and teeth strong and reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis, but it is extremely vital for normal function of all muscles tissue, including the heart. When calcium is deficient, it can cause issues with maintaining a regular heart beat and also is a common cause of muscle cramps. Natural sources of calcium include: fish, kale, spinach, bok choy and broccoli. It is also recommended that many seniors take calcium supplements.
  • Vitamin D – Most common source of vitamin D is sunlight on the skin, which produces vitamin D from the cholesterol in the skin. Vitamin D deficiency results in loss of bone density resulting in rickets and muscle weakness.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium is vital for bones, teeth and plays a key role in over 300 different enzyme reactions throughout the body. Deficiencies of magnesium are associated with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and osteoporosis. Sources for magnesium include whole grains, buts, dark chocolate and leafy green veggies as well as in supplement form.
  • Vitamin C – A water soluble vitamin (when people take extra vitamin c when they feel sick only results with the excess C being passed out of the body in the urine). Vitamin C plays a role in the absorption of many proteins and plays a vital role in the connective tissue the body uses to help heal a wound. Vitamin C is also an anti-oxidant which helps prevent a number of illnesses. Common sources include brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as citrus, tomatoes and bell peppers.
  • Vitamin E – Vitamin E helps support the immune system and contains disease preventing anti-oxidants. Sources include nuts, seeds and some vegetable oils.
  • Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in absorption of many proteins as well as helping with cognitive function. Sources include fish, organ meat (liver) potatoes and starchy vegetables.
  • Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin known as cobalamin. It is essential for blood formation, brain and nerve function. Many vegetarians and vegans are deficient in vitamin B12 as it is only found in animal foods, with the exception of seaweed and tempeh. Good sources include shellfish (especially clams and oysters), organ meat (liver), read meat, eggs and fortified milk.
  • Folic Acid (folate) – Folic acid plays a role in maintaining a healthy blood level and bowel function. Deficiency in folic acid can increase the chance of miscarriages, birth defects (such as spina bifida) and anemia. The federal government requires companies to add folic acid to cold cereals, flour, breads, pasta, bakery items, cookies and crackers. Natural sources include leafy vegetable like spinach, asparagus, broccoli, lettuce, okra, fruits (bananas, melons and lemons), beans, yeast, mushrooms, organ meat (liver and kidneys), orange juice and tomato juice. Some people believe that folic acid helps prevent colon cancer, cervical cancer, heart disease, stroke and some cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.
  • Iron – Deficiency of iron is the main cause of anemia, resulting in tiredness, lack of energy and more. There are two types of iron – heme iron, which is readily absorbed by the body, is only obtained from animal sources, mainly red meats; and non-heme iron, which is harder for the body to absorb and is found in many plant and some animal sources. Many vegetarians and vegans suffer from an iron deficiency due to their lack of eating meat – the source of heme iron.
  • Iodine – Iodine is vital to normal thyroid function. An iodine deficiency can result in an enlarged thyroid gland – a condition known as a goiter. Other results of an iodine deficiency are an increased heart rate, shortness of breath and weight gain. Good sources of iodine are seaweed, fish, yogurt, eggs and iodized salt, but you don’t hear health experts recommending using additional salt.
  • Vitamin A – Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is necessary for healthy skin, teeth, bones and cell membranes throughout the body. There are two types of vitamin A – performed vitamin A which is found in meat, fish, poultry and dairy; and pro-vitamin A which is found in vegetables and fruit (the beta carotene found in vegetables and fruit is converted into vitamin A by the body).

I try to eat most of the foods that contain these vital nutrients but I also take some of them in supplement form to help. If you have any concerns about being deficient in any of these, you can ask your doctor who can run blood work to determine you levels and you many want to work with a nutritionist.

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HLA Staff

HLA Staff

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