Essential Vitamins and Minerals For Elderly

As the age advances, a lot of health complications crop in, be it the eye sight, hearing problems, diabetes, hypertension, heart, kidney, and digestive problems or bone and muscle related problems. An elderly individual often experiences lack of appetite, delayed digestion, reduced metabolism, loss of taste, problems in chewing. Some of it may be attributed to the reduced physical activity because of reduced stamina, while most of it is due to deficiencies of nutrient content such as the essential vitamins and minerals in the body.

Impact Of Vitamins And Minerals Deficiency In Elderly People

Several studies have concluded that around two thirds of the elderly people suffer from malnutrition and are deficient in many vital nutrients like vitamins and minerals leading to frequent infections and illnesses resulting in hospitalization. It was also found that elderly people are 10 fold more like to face death due to infections.

Why Is Vitamin Intake Important For Elderly People?

As one ages, the absorption of the nutrient from the diet reduces. Vitamins have the most vital role to play in the formation of various hormones, immune cells, enzymes, neurotransmitters and also energy. Food should be the main source from where you get your daily requirements met. The vitamins can be divided into two categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble.

Essential Vitamins and Minerals For Elderly

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

  • Importance of Vitamin A in Elderly People: Although deficiency of this vitamin is not generally found as many fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamin A, one should not forget to include it in the diet. Vitamin A is very essential in maintaining the moisture content of all the organs and also the throat and mouth. Elderly people should specifically incorporate it since vitamin A improves vision, maintains proper functioning of the digestive system, urinary tract and also protects the teeth, bones, and skin. One can get the daily requirements met from foods like spinach, carrot, beetroot, animal liver, milk, mangoes, apricots, etc.
  • Significance of Vitamin D in Elders: As you age up, the bones become fragile and make you more prone to various skeletal disorders like arthritis and osteoporosis. Maintaining a proper level of Vitamin D in the body is very important since it helps in the keeping a strong bone, absorption of calcium from food. It also aids in maintaining calcium levels in the blood for using in other bodily functions like maintaining the calcium ion in the cellular level for constriction of muscle and impulse transmission to and from the brain. Also known as “the sunshine vitamin”, the best way to produce vitamin D naturally is exposure to the sun early in morning or in late afternoons with a sun protection. However, with advancement of age the skin loses its capacity to produce the vitamin from sun exposure so does your digestive system in absorbing it from the food. This is the reason why more of the elderly people specially women who attained menopause would require supplements. The food sources are dairy products and fish like salmon and tuna.
  • Importance of Vitamin E in Elderly People/Seniors: Vitamin E acting like an antioxidant helps in protecting the body. The free radicals present in the body damage the cells and its DNA structure and can also cause cancer. These free radicals can also cause various heart diseases by oxidation of the low-density-lipoproteins which in turn blocks the arteries and cause heart attacks. Vitamin E fights with these radicals and prevents the body from such damages. Vitamin E is also known to prevent neurodegenerative disorders. It is known for slowing down the ageing process of skin and makes it a supple. The dietary sources are vegetable oils, nuts, leafy vegetables, fruits like kiwi and dairy products.
  • Benefits of Vitamin K in Aged People: Though not considered as one of the most vital vitamins earlier, recent studies have found more benefits of this vitamin than just its contribution in blood coagulation. Vitamin K helps in maintaining bone metabolism and also prevents blood clotting in the arteries. The natural sources are broccoli, cabbage, grapes, chicken leg and liver and dairy products.

Water-Soluble Vitamin

  • Importance of Vitamin B in Elderly People: Elderly people might need this vitamin more than the younger ones due to its effectiveness in energy production. B vitamins are a group consisting of 8 vitamins viz. B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12. Each of these has various roles to play for the proper functioning of the body. It helps in maintaining the muscle tone and improves brain function. Vitamin B9, also known as folate or folic acid helps in prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia that most elderly people are prone to.
  • Significance of Vitamin C in Elders: As the age increases, individuals are prone to diseases and also the common colds and flu’s. Vitamin C prevents from cold and also reduces the severity of the symptoms. It also plays a key role in protecting the digestive system, cardiovascular system, prevents prenatal problems. It helps is white blood cell, bone and cartilage formation and also slows down the advancement of osteoarthritis. The food sources include all citrus fruits, vegetables like broccoli and animal liver.

Essential Minerals For The Elderly People

Unlike the 13 vitamins, there are 60 minerals required by the body to keep it going. However, only 17 are mentioned by researchers as the most important ones to keep the body working. Minerals are not formed in plants, rather plants absorb the minerals from the earth and it is also found in herbivorous animals. The minerals can also be categorized into two groups: macronutrients and trace minerals. Macronutrients are required in huge quantity whereas the trace minerals as required in small quantity by the body.

Following are the most important macronutrient and trace minerals which you need to focus for an elderly person:

  • Significance of Calcium in Elderly People/Seniors: One of the most important minerals required by the body is calcium. Almost 99% of the calcium in the body is found in the bones and the remaining 1% is found in the blood and cell membranes. Calcium is known for its impact in making bones and teeth strong. It also has a key role to play in muscle contraction and also in impulse transmission through the neuron. If an elderly individual is deficient in calcium, demineralization of bone takes place to maintain the calcium content in blood and the cells thus making the bones fragile. A fragile bone is prone to fracture, arthritic changes and also osteoporosis. Postmenopausal women have an increased need of calcium due to the drop in estrogen levels. The major food sources being milk and dairy products, kale, broccoli.
  • Importance of Potassium in Elders: Just like calcium, potassium is also very important in keeping a good bone health. It is also involved in muscle contractions and impulse transmission through the neurons. This mineral also plays a vital role in reducing blood pressure and kidney problems like stones. Dietary sources are fruits and vegetables like potatoes, green leafy vegetables, plums, prunes and banana.
  • Importance of Iron Intake in Elderly People: Another most important mineral is iron which is extremely essential for producing hemoglobin in the body and prevent from anemia. Iron is required from carrying oxygen throughout the body and also to fight the foreign particles in the body. It is found in green leafy vegetables like spinach, nuts, whole grains, tofu and the best source is animal meat and liver.
  • Significance of Magnesium Intake in Elders: This essential mineral has a wide usage in the body. It takes part in 300 metabolic functions of the body. Magnesium triggers the bodily functions of energy metabolism, muscle contraction, cell reproduction, protein synthesis, nutrient transport to the cells and many others. Magnesium also helps in maintaining bone health just like calcium, potassium and vitamin D. Almost all fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds are rich in magnesium content.
  • Significance of Zinc Intake in Elders: Immediately after iron comes zinc in the concentration levels in the body. It plays an important role in sensations like taste and smell along with its importance in cell growth and division, breaking down carbohydrate and also in healing wounds. Recent findings suggest that it reduces the risk of common cold. Zinc plays a vital role in proper growth and development during infancy, childhood and also pregnancy. Yeast, legumes, whole grains and nuts are rich sources of zinc. Foods that are high in protein like poultry, beef, lamb, etc. contains very high amounts of zinc.
  • Significance of Sodium and Iodine Intake in Elders: Both sodium and iodine are vital minerals for the proper functioning of the thyroid glands which has a major contribution in the metabolic activity of the body. Sodium is also important in the cells for many mechanisms including that of the neural transmission of impulses. Common sodium rich foods are seafood, salt, star fruits, dairy products and many other fruits and vegetables while foods rich in iodine are iodized salt, seafood, dairy products etc.
  • Importance of Phosphorus in Aged People: Phosphorus makes 1% of the body weight. It has an important role in making teeth and bones, growth, maintenance and repair of the tissues and the cells and also in nerve signaling, muscle contraction, kidney function and normal beating of heart. The food sources are whole grains and protein foods like milk and meats.

The other vital minerals required by the body are selenium, chromium, boron, copper, molybdenum, manganese among the rest of the minerals.

Thus a proper food intake with all these vitamins and minerals are very essential for the body on an elderly individual to keep health dysfunction and disorders at bay. If you are deficient in any one of these, it can lead to many complications. One thing to remember is that as an elderly individual your requirements are much higher than that when you were young. Hence talk to a physician and consider taking supplements and plan your diet accordingly.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 28, 2019

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