Let’s preface this a little; the best way to gain all your daily nutrition is through a varied, balanced diet. That said, for some, getting your five-a-day and then some isn’t always possible, particularly for seniors who may not be able to head to the shops for fresh produce so regularly or have the volition to cook each night.

And that’s where dietary supplements come in, providing daily recommended doses of essential nutrients, many of which can be very beneficial to those over the age of 50 to support healthy ageing. But which are the most effective and necessary? Here’s a start; our 5 essential supplements for over seniors to consider.

SPECIFICALLY FORMULATED MULTIVITAMINS

Multivitamins are designed to help fill in gaps in nutrients created by consumers’ diets. Since nutrient needs vary by age, gender, and stage of life, it’s important for consumers to purchase multivitamins that are specifically formulated to meet their needs. When they look at health supplements to take, seniors should consider not just their genders and ages, but also any underlying health conditions or individual risk factors for developing nutrient deficiencies or potentially serious diseases. Of course, the GP should be the first point of contact here for advice.

Don’t expect conventional multivitamins to have all the nutrients needed to meet each individual consumer’s requirements. Multivitamins may be formulated for older adults, but most don’t contain sufficient amounts of vitamins to make up for deficiencies or reduce disease risks. Seniors should look at their multivitamins as staple supplements, but they shouldn’t stop there. Instead, they should schedule appointments with their primary care providers to have blood work performed that will determine whether they have any serious nutrient deficiencies.

Those who struggle with multiple nutrient deficiencies will need to purchase specialised supplements. These can usually be taken alongside multivitamins. Just make sure to check the ingredients list of the multivitamins to avoid overdoing it with individual ingredients that can be found in other supplements. And above all else, prioritise healthy eating for easiest access to all those vitamins.

VITAMIN B12

B12 deficiencies can occur at any age, and can cause fatigue, weakness, anaemia, and even peripheral neuropathy, which can make life especially difficult for seniors. That’s because vitamin B12 assists in everything from red blood cell formation to DNA synthesis, metabolism, and neurological function. Without sufficient amounts of it, active seniors will find that they are unable to perform tasks that would otherwise be relatively easy.

Vitamin B12 should be considered an essential nutrient for consumers of all ages, but it’s especially important that seniors consider taking supplements because older adults are often unable to absorb sufficient amounts of vitamin B12 from food sources. Most experts recommend either incorporating fortified foods into the daily diet, taking supplements, or both. Vitamin B12 can often be found in speciality formulations designed for seniors, especially those intended to boost energy levels and maintain neurological function.

CALCIUM

Older women often suffer from calcium deficiencies post-menopause, which can lead to problems with bone health. Calcium supplements have been shown to reduce the risk of fractures (particularly of the vertebrae) in both men and women, and it is rarely found in sufficient quantities in general multivitamins, even those formulated specifically for seniors. It can, however, be found in supplements designed to support bone health.

Those who choose to supplement calcium separately have two options. They can take either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate must be taken with food, but it contains more calcium. Calcium citrate can be taken on an empty stomach and is easier to digest, which may make it a better option for older consumers with digestive problems. Just make sure not to overdo it because too much calcium supplementation can increase seniors’ risks of developing serious health problems like kidney stones and strokes.

VITAMIN D

Around one billion people across the globe struggle with vitamin D deficiencies. This is particularly serious because the body requires vitamin D to absorb calcium properly. Vitamin D deficiencies are also associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and other serious diseases and disorders.

Vitamin D supplementation doesn’t just improve bone health. It also reduces inflammation and can help to decrease seniors’ risks of having heart attacks and strokes. Those with allergies or asthma will also find that maintaining healthy vitamin D levels can reduce their symptoms.

Current medical expertise recommends that adults over the age of 50 should take 600 IU of vitamin D per day. Those over 70 should increase their consumption to 800 IU per day. Before adding new supplements to their regimes, older adults should consider how much vitamin D they are getting from other sources, such as fortified foods, multivitamins, and joint health supplements, which often contain vitamin D along with calcium and other nutrients.

EYE HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS

Eye health is really important for all ages, but it becomes a more pertinent a concern in later life, without doubt. Older adults often suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a degenerative disease that can eventually cause total blindness. AMD is not reversible, so it’s important that seniors take preventative measures against its development. That should include taking a targeted eye health supplement containing vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc.

Supplements designed to support ocular health are often marketed as “AREDS” formulas, named after the Age-Related Eye Disease Study sponsored by the National Eye Institute (NEI). However, supplements that have this label are not endorsed by the NEI or the FDA in the States and are not necessarily any more beneficial than other commercially available eye health formulas. The most important thing when looking for an eye health supplement is to find a reputable vendor that offers transparency regarding its formulation and performs third-party testing to ensure quality.

Older adults often suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and may do so without even realising. This can increase their risks of developing serious age-related diseases like AMD and can also increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and other issues. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

The best way to stay healthy well into old age is to combine a targeted daily supplement regime with a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and routine visits to the doctor for testing and screening. Make sure to discuss all supplements with a doctor before starting a new regime, as some of them can create medication interactions or produce other unanticipated side effects, and only purchase supplements from a reputable vendor.