By Andrea Bartels CNP NNCP RNT
27 Sep 2021
Arthritis. Hypertension. Insomnia. Cognitive decline. Enlarged prostate. Osteoporosis. Aging can present new health challenges, yet there’s a lot a person can do nutritionally to support themselves as the years advance. If you or your loved ones are over 55, check out this rundown on some nutrients that are key to feeling good and healthy in your senior years:
Magnesium: The mineral magnesium functions to relax not only our skeletal muscles, but also those that control the GI tract and the blood flow. This is useful to know because as we age, our blood pressure typically rises. This in turn puts us at risk for kidney damage, cardiovascular disease and stroke. By reducing blood pressure, magnesium may reduce our risk of such outcomes. It can also be combined with taurine and coenzyme Q10 for more comprehensive cardiovascular support.
In addition, magnesium reduces incidence of constipation--another common affliction in the elderly because of limited mobility, food choices relating to dental limitations, and medication side-effects.
Insomnia is another common complain of the elderly. Whether you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, magnesium can be used alone or combined with melatonin for effective sleep support.
Vitamin B-12: Vitamin B-12 deficiency is quite common in the elderly, due to the reduced nutrient absorption that comes with aging. Deficiency not only causes fatigue by reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells---it also damages the nervous system, leading to problems with vision, balance, co-ordination, memory and cognition. Ironically, ‘modern medicine’ considers these to be natural signs of aging, so B-12 deficiency as a cause of these problems may be overlooked by doctors.
This is despite the fact that several studies have demonstrated that vitamin B-12 deficiency negatively affects cognition, and that supplementation can produce symptomatic improvement. Taking an activated B-12 supplement sublingually (under the tongue) like methylcobalamin leads to direct absorption, bypassing the limitations of an aging digestive tract.
Zinc: Zinc is important for vision maintenance because it it’s needed for vitamin A production and mobilization from the liver. Considering that macular degeneration is a common type of blindness in seniors, zinc supplementation should be considered well in advance of eye disease.
Zinc is also critical for immunity in men and women alike. Immunosenescence---the concept that immunity naturally declines in the mature years--may explain why we see more cancer and complications from infections in seniors than in other age groups. One randomized clinical trial of elderly individuals, showed participants in the zinc-supplemented group experienced a significantly reduced incidence in infections than those taking a placebo. In an era experiencing a rise in antibiotic resistance to super-bugs, this is encouraging research.
Men, take note: taking zinc has an added bonus if you’re over 50 because it limits production of DHT, a potent testosterone that is a factor that is associated with prostate enlargement and resulting urinary problems.
In addition, zinc may also provide a protective benefit against development of prostate cancer.
Vitamin D3: This vitamin keeps the immune system from ‘misbehaving’, ensuring it correctly identifies pathogens as dangerous and our own tissues as harmless. Deficiency is common in cancer patients, and has also been linked to respiratory tract infections in the elderly. Since it’s difficult for older individuals to synthesize vitamin D, taking a supplement helps achieve the blood levels associated with lower incidence of certain cancers and infections.
When it comes to bone health, maintaining blood levels of vitamin D improves calcium absorption and delivery to the bones, supporting the bone metabolism and density necessary to reduce fracture risk.
Vitamin K2-MK7: Another bone-essential nutrient is vitamin K-2. This nutrient not only supports calcium metabolism and bone density---it keeps calcium from depositing in the arteries. Since calcium is one of the materials found in atherosclerotic plaque that is associated with heart disease and stroke, it makes sense to guide it away from the circulatory system.
Supplementary Vitamin K-2 in the MK-7 form has been demonstrated to do exactly that in a 2015 study of healthy, post-menopausal women. However, this shouldn’t stop men from considering K2-MK7 supplementation for its cardio-protective benefits.
Make it Your Destiny
Consider that each one of us expects that someday, we’ll reach our golden years. The better we take care of ourselves before we get there, the more we can expect a better health experience of that life stage.
Note: Each of us has unique health history, medications, genetics and lifestyle that needs review before adding new nutritional supplements to our regime. If you’re unsure whether a natural health product is suitable for you, speak to your primary health care provider or pharmacist.
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