As we age and begin to lose some of the abilities we once had, there is a tendency to blame the vagaries of old age for our troubles. That may be a grave mistake. Vitamins play a major role in the regeneration and functioning of our bodies. It can be easy to forget or neglect basic nutrition when we have a busy life, a long history of ingrained habits or even an illness influencing what we eat and why. If you begin to experience a health problem, consider whether you may be lacking one of these basic nutritional needs.
Vitamin B-12 is necessary for healthy nerve and brain function. Deficiency is common in older adults and can lead to symptoms which mimic those of Alzheimer's. Lack of B-12 can lead to memory loss, poor cognitive function, anemia, depression and lack of energy.
Vitamin B-12 is only available through animal products (such as meat, dairy or eggs) or through fortified foods (cereals, energy bars, supplements). Adult males over age 51 need 2.4 mcg per day and it is recommended that the vitamin come through supplements or fortified foods because of absorption issues in older persons. (http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminB12/index.html)
Vitamin C keeps blood vessels and connective tissue strong and healthy. It may also help lower the risk of heart attack by blocking LDL cholesterol from creating plaques in blood vessels. Vitamin C is neither made nor stored by the body, so including sources in the daily diet is an important step toward health. Strawberries, broccoli and oranges are all excellent sources of the vitamin. Adult males should have 90 milligrams per day in their diet.
Vitamin E may help lower the risk of heart attack in the same way as vitamin C. Lack of vitamin E can lead to balance problems, weakness and damage to the nerves or retina. Marginal levels of vitamin E intake are common in the United States. The RDA for adult males is 15 millgrams.
Early evidence links the effects of vitamin D to blood vessel health. Exposing the skin to 15 minutes of day of sunlight, adding fortified foods to your diet, or taking a supplement are all effective ways of getting enough vitamin D. If you use a protective sunscreen, you may want to spend some time outside unprotected during the times when the sun's rays are less intense, such as late afternoon and early morning hours.
Vitamin D also helps ensure bone health. This is important for older men because there is an increased risk of fracture, especially hip fracture, in those over age 65. The RDA for men over age 50 is 400 to 600 international units (IU) a day.
Calcium works to constrict and relax blood vessels, transmit nerve impulses and contract muscles. Calcium is also vital for bone health. To protect against fractures, men over 50 need 1,200 milligrams a day. Men also need to ensure their levels of vitamin D are adequate in order for the body to be able to absorb calcium.
If you are taking any prescription medications, ask your doctor about supplements and the effects your medication may have on absorption of vitamins. In some cases, supplements may influence the required dosage of your medication, so it is important to keep your doctor informed about all vitamins and supplements you add to your diet.