Certain vitamins for seniors, as well as specific minerals and nutrients, become increasingly important as we age. Those over 50 must make sure they get enough of the following vitamins for seniors through their diet and health supplements: vitamins B2, B6 and B12; vitamins C, D, E and K; folic acid; choline; calcium; chromium; magnesium; potassium; selenium; and zinc.
Your body requires at least 13 different vitamins in order to stay healthy. Some vitamins, like vitamin A, can be stored in fat cells or in the liver for long periods of time to be utilized later. But most vitamins must be replenished frequently by eating nutrient-rich foods and taking vitamin supplements.
People over the age of 50 must really watch what they eat in order to get the most nutritional value from their limited daily calories. If they aren’t diet-conscious, they could easily pack on extra pounds, which would then increase their risk of heart conditions, diabetes, and other health problems. Did you know that you only have to eat an extra 100 calories per day to gain 10 pounds in one year? That’s equivalent to eating just one extra slice of wheat bread or one medium-sized apple a day.
Unfortunately, if you don’t get all the important nutrients you need from your diet and vitamin supplements, health problems can develop. And nutritional deficiencies can persist for a long time before you notice any physical signs or symptoms; meanwhile, poor nutrition could be taking a toll on your health.
7 Signs of Inadequate Nutrition for those over 50
Fortunately, there are some tell-tale signs of not getting enough of the important vitamins for seniors that you should be aware of, including these 7 signs of inadequate nutrition:
- Increased Fatigue: Fatigue may be a sign of an iron deficiency, which can lead to anemia. Without the proper amount of iron, your body can’t produce enough hemoglobin, which enables red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body’s tissues. Without adequate oxygenation, you will feel weak, tired, and irritable. Some of the most iron-rich foods to include in your diet include red meat, egg yolks, dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach and collards, prunes, raisins, iron-enriched cereals and grains, oysters, clams, scallops, turkey or chicken giblets, beans, lentils, chick peas, soybeans, liver and artichokes. Fatigue can also be a symptom of many other health conditions, such as heart problems, depression, or thyroid problems. So if you experience any unexplained fatigue or weakness, you should consult your doctor to determine if it’s a nutritional deficiency or other ailment.
- Diminished Appetite: As you age, it’s normal to experience some changes in your appetite. Often with age, the taste buds don’t work as well as they used to, so foods just aren’t as appetizing as they once were. Medications can also cause you to lose your appetite. But a chronic lack of appetite can be a warning sign of nutritional deficiencies. So if you lose your interest in dining out or find that you’re skipping meals, you may need to assess your diet to make sure you’re getting the proper nutrition and important vitamins for seniors.
- Brittle and Dry Hair: Your hair can be a helpful indicator of your health status, including your nutrition. Brittle hair can be a sign that you’re not getting enough essential fatty acids, protein, iron, and other nutrients. It’s natural to experience some hair loss as you age. But if your hair is falling out more than usual, you may have a nutritional deficit. Once a deficiency is identified, you can treat the problem by including more nutrient-rich foods in your diet and taking vitamin supplements.
- Ridged or Spoon-Shaped Nails: Your nails can also serve as an early indicator of a poor diet. Ridged or spoon-shaped nails where the nail curves up like a spoon from the nail bed—a condition called koilonychias—can be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia. To make sure you get enough iron in your diet, you should eat more iron-rich foods (see the list in #1 above).
- Mouth Problems: If your lips are cracking or if the corners of your mouth are inflamed—a condition called angular cheilitis—you may have a deficiency in riboflavin (B2) or iron. If your tongue is abnormally pale or swollen, it may also be due to a lack of iron or B vitamins. If you’re deficient in iron, zinc, or B vitamins, you could also develop a condition called burning mouth syndrome.
- Diarrhea: If you have chronic diarrhea, your body may not be absorbing nutrients like it should. Things that can cause this malabsorption are infections, surgical procedures, certain medications, drinking too much alcohol, and digestive disorders. If you have problems with chronic diarrhea, you should consult your doctor.
- Mood Changes: Unexplained mood changes, such as feeling apathetic or unusually irritable, may indicate a medical condition such as depression, but they can also indicate that your body is lacking nutrients. If you notice unusual mood changes, you may need to evaluate your diet to make sure you’re getting all the necessary important vitamins for seniors.
Of course, the key to good nutrition is to eat a balanced diet that includes as many fresh, whole, natural foods as possible, like fresh fruits and vegetables (including green leafy vegetables), plus lean meats like poultry and fish, and foods that are packed with nutrients like nuts, beans, liver, dried fruits, dairy foods, etc. Eating right, exercising regularly, and being aware of these signs of inadequate nutrition can help you head-off any deficiencies before they cause you any serious health problems.
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