Supplements are not just the usual multivitamins that you have known for a long time – now you can buy capsules and energy bars with all kinds of ingredients and supposed benefits. But do you really need them, and are they safe to use? Today we will answer those questions and talk about some of the more common supplements for seniors.
Do You Really Need Supplements?
The short answer to this is a big ‘maybe’ but with all of the advertisements you see on TV and elsewhere you could be forgiven for thinking you definitely need to be taking something. And again, maybe you do need to. The point is that you can’t be swayed by bold claims from anyone, even your friends and family, because they simply don’t know enough about your health and your needs.
As we will discuss in detail below in the safety section, most supplements will not be harmful to your body, even if you’re taking a supplement for a health issue that you do not have, but there are some supplements that may be a waste of money or even harmful in certain people. If you are concerned that this may be the case, talk to a doctor or accredited dietitian.
Supplements for Seniors:
- Calcium– You’ve always heard that calcium will make your bones stronger, and it’s true. Seniors need to consume more calcium as they age, along with vitamin D, to help prevent bone loss as well as fractures.
- For blood circulation– Having poor blood circulation is also common in seniors and can cause many health issues. You may want to consider taking a circulation supplement,which contains vitamins C and K, along with other ingredients which promote a healthier blood circulation.
- Iron– Both men and women need to consume at least 8 mgof iron every day, and postmenopausalwomen may need even more if they are on HRT (hormone replacement therapy). If you are not getting enough iron from your food, you may want to take it in supplement form.
- Vitamin B12– There are many types of food that have extra B12 in them, but over a quarter of seniors can’t absorb this vitamin in its natural form when it is found in food. This vitamin is essential to maintaining healthy blood and nerves, so a supplement may be needed if not enough of it is being absorbed from regular food.
- Protein– Particularly for those 70 years old and above, protein becomes important to build or maintain muscle mass, which in turn improves the performance of the immune system. The most common form of protein supplement used by seniors is whey protein powder consumed as a drink.
- Omega-3– Research has shown that omega-3 improves brain function because of increased blood flow and other factors. This in turn often improves a person’s memory and can also improve their mood.
The Safety of Supplements
Supplements can be taken in many forms, usually capsules or powders, and they don’t require a doctor prescription, so most people just assume that it’s fine to take whatever they want. While it’s true that the majority of supplements are safe for the majority of the population, there can be a few safety issues along the way. This is why it is always recommended that you talk to your doctor before you start taking any supplements.
The safety concerns are in two areas: the ingredients and production of the supplements themselves, and then how your body will react to them. For example, a completely safe and well-made supplement could be fine for one person, but cause complications in another person with different health issues and / or different prescription medication usage.
A practical example of this concern is betacarotene – research has shown that people who smoke more than one pack of cigarettes per day and also take 20mg of betacarotene are 18% more likely to get lung cancer. Betacarotene is the pigment in plants, which gives them a yellow, orange, or red color and is also a precursor of vitamin A in the human body, and is not harmful by itself, but when combined with consumption of another (already unhealthy) product such as cigarettes, it can make the negative effects even worse.
In summary, many supplements can be beneficial to seniors, some can be a waste of time and money, and some could actually be harmful when combined with medications, existing health conditions, or other products that the person may be consuming.
This guest post was graciously provided by Caitlin Evans. Caitlin is a bookworm, photographer and dancer. She is also a graphic designer, but that one is on hold at the moment. When she is not trying to find the meaning of life and Universe, Cate is researching and writing about various lifestyle related topics. She is happily addicted to art in all its forms, grilled tofu and caffeine.