Two letters show up more than the others when reading about older adults and senior nutrition. Those letters are B and D, as in vitamins B12 and D.
Seniors often suffer from deficiencies in these two nutrients, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, numbness and confusion.
While these deficiencies can become serious if left untreated, they are easily detected with a simple blood test and easily treated with proper diet and supplements.
Unlike most vitamins, which are best found in the foods we eat, Vitamin D is best absorbed through the skin in the form of sunlight. Underexposure to the sun is common among older adults, especially in the winter months.
Experts agree that about 20 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week supplies the body with the vitamin D it needs to properly absorb calcium, fight colds, ward off depression and even to help keep cognitive abilities intact.
When the weather gets warmer, older adults should make a point of getting out into the sun.
For a few minutes several times a week, allow the sun to hit your bare face, arms or legs. Of course, it’s important to avoid overexposure, which can lead to sunburn and eventually, skin cancer.
Until then, it’s important to get as much vitamin D as possible through foods and supplements. Good sources of vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish, including tuna, mackerel, swordfish and salmon
- Foods fortified with vitamin D, such as dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, yogurt and cereals
- Beef liver
- Swiss cheese
- Egg yolks
A physician can determine a person’s need for vitamin D with a simple blood test. Those whose levels are low may be advised to take a daily supplement
Vitamin B12 keeps the body’s nerves and red blood cells healthy, but far too many older adults aren’t getting enough of this vital nutrient
A person whose B12 levels are low may experience an array of symptoms, including fatigue, numbness, vision problems or memory loss. Too little B12 can lead to anemia, which left untreated can lead to heart problems, severe fatigue and even death.
The good news is, vitamin B12 is found in common foods as well as dietary supplements.
To boost your body’s level of B12, be sure to eat plenty of:
- Fish, especially shellfish
- Lean beef
- Low-fat dairy products
Avocado offers potassium, which helps to lower the body’s level of sodium, and the fiber in whole grain bread helps with digestion, blood sugar levels and heart health.