When you turn 40, it is really high time you started thinking about age-related vitamins. Simply think of vitamins and food supplements as an ‘immune-boosting army’ that will combat your aging discomfort.
Clearly, the best way to arm this army is to eat a healthy, nutrient-balanced diet, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, manager of wellness nutrition programs at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
It is important to eat well no matter what your age is. Yet, it is especially important to eat well around age 40 because that’s when the body starts to “rule out” its old rules.
She says that your body probably isn’t working the same way at 40+ as it used to at 20. Your muscle mass starts to decline, you easily put on weight, menopausal symptoms may (or may soon) start, and the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer is ‘pending.’
It all means that your “battle plan” needs to look a little [or much more] different depending on your health parameters. One good approach is to get enough of the right vitamins and nutrients, which is possible through healthy eating. Food sources of vitamins are typically (but not all the time) a better armor than supplements because they’re better absorbed, Kirkpatrick says.
Here is a list of the key nutrients to look out for in your 40s, and the best ways to get them:
A key function of magnesium is to help with blood pressure problems, especially important for women of 40-plus who are at a higher risk of high blood pressure as a result of aging. Kirkpatrick adds that “serious deficiencies in magnesium have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation.” Plus, it helps the body absorb calcium and plays a ‘medical role’ in heart, muscle and nerve function, as well as for blood glucose control.
It is possible for your doctor to test your magnesium levels if symptoms indicate you might be deficient in it. Anyway, if you are on a healthy, balanced diet, you probably get all the magnesium you need from food (320 mg a day for women 40 and up). It is an element in dark leafy greens, beans, soy, nuts, seeds, and avocado fruit.
Note: Too much of this mineral does not necessarily pose health risk, but in some people it may cause nausea, diarrhea, or muscle cramps.
(Read More -> Top 10 Foods Highest In Magnesium)
It is hard to be decisive about calcium: A late analysis of 59 studies aimed at measuring the role it plays in preventing fractures in women and men (around 50) found that increased calcium intake—either from real food or food supplements—was not likely to significantly reduce the risk of fracture. Other research on the topic has linked calcium supplements to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiac death for postmenopausal women.
But even though our bones absorb most of the calcium they need earlier in life (typically before we reach the age of 30), the nutrient has its magnitude in maintaining bone health later on in life, too. The nutrient is also needed for other “soft” body functions like muscle contraction, nerve and heart functioning, with other biochemical reactions included.
So, if you’re not getting enough calcium from your diet, the body steals calcium from your bones (and weakens them by the way). The fact is that you do need calcium at 40 and beyond, but these latest findings tell us you don’t need to go overboard!
More calcium does not automatically mean more benefit and may even be harmful to heart health, Kirkpatrick says. Most women can get the calcium they need (1,000 mg a day for women 40 to 50, and 1,200 mg for women on the “wrong” side of 50) if they eat a well-rounded diet with calcium-rich foods – dairy, tofu, sardines, broccoli, almonds, and spinach for instance.
Proper Vitamin D intake makes the “D-day” for your health, especially after 40! It helps protect against the age-invoked changes that start to kick in. Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and breast and colorectal cancers—all of which are more likely to attack you the older you get.
Plus, this “D” is essential for absorption of calcium in the body, she says.
Dietary sources are: fish and fortified dairy, grains, and cereals, but generally the “D” you get from food is poorly absorbed. The sun is the best source of the Vitamin D, but not everyone lives close enough to the equator to be exposed to the strong sun rays that will deliver the amount of D you need, Kirkpatrick explains.
“If you’re living anywhere above Georgia, you’re probably not getting enough vitamin D from the sun,” she says. Plus, you don’t absorb it with sunscreen products on your skin—and you definitely don’t want to be moving around in the sun without sunscreen (despite any vitamin D benefits).
She recommends taking a D3 supplement (because D3 is the type of vitamin D closest to what you would get from the sun). You should be getting at least 600 IU per day (and 800 IU per day after 50), according to current recommendations of the National Institutes of Health. The tolerable upper limit (i.e. the amount that will not cause harm) is as much as 4,000 IU per day.
Kirkpatrick says potassium plays a key role in keeping blood pressure in check, regardless of your age. In postmenopausal women, research has linked higher intake of potassium from food to decreased risk of stroke, although “high” intake was considered even 3.1 g, which is still lower than the recommended 4.7 g per day.
The benefits were seen even in those getting as little as 2 g per day, says study author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, PhD, a professor in the department of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Potassium is absolutely a nutrient you want to be supplied with, but unless your MD prescribes it for another medical condition, Kirkpatrick cautions against self-taking potassium supplements. Too much potassium can damage the GI tract (gastrointestinal tract) and the heart, and can cause potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.
Most people can get the potassium by eating a variegated and varied diet that includes: ripe bananas, sweet potatoes, chard, beans, and lentils. You are very unlikely to get more potassium in your diet than it is safe, Kirkpatrick says.
Note: If your doctor does prescribe supplements, he/she should carefully monitor how they affect you, she says.
- Vitamin B12
After turning 40 (and definitely after turning 50), vitamin B12 should be on your “control tower.” It is essential for normal blood and brain function, Kirkpatrick explains. And while children and younger adults are likely to store the B12 they need from food [it’s in meat and animal products e.g. in chicken, fish, dairy, and eggs, B12 is more poorly absorbed as the body ages, typically starting around the half-century age of 50, because that’s when stomach acid levels are also halved.
So, any time after 40 and before turning 50, is a good time to start getting B12 in a supplement or multivitamin form. Aim for 2.4 mg per day (the current recommended dietary allowance) although there is no need to worry about taking too much of it either, Kirkpatrick adds. Because it is a water-soluble vitamin, you pee out the amount of B12 you don’t really need.
Technically speaking, they are not a vitamin, but omega-3 fatty acids still deserve a position on this list because of their ‘myriad’ health benefits. It is so because they help counteract some of the negative changes that “ride in” with your aging such as increased heart disease risk and mental decline.
Research has shown that omega-3s help lower blood pressure and LDL ( or bad) cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, and play a role in keeping mnemonic ability and ‘thinking sharp’ at ripe old age.
“In fact, a recent study found that people with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had larger brains and performed better on memory tests, planning activities, and abstract thinking, compared with those individuals with lower levels—which suggests that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in maintaining brain health in addition to the other known benefits,” says the study’s lead author, Zaldy S.
Tan, MD, MPH, medical director of the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program at UCLA.Kirkpatrick says that although you can get omega-3s from foods [fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, or leafy vegetables], taking a supplement is a good way to make sure you are getting enough of it.
Either way, intend for 500 mg if you are a healthy person, 800-1,000 mg if you have diagnosed heart disease, and 2,000-4,000 mg if you have high triglyceride levels. And always consult your doctor about the right dose if you are taking anticoagulant drugs, which can have serious side effects and damage your health in the long run.
Like the above-discussed omega-3s, probiotics are not technically vitamins or minerals either, but they are important “health accessories” for women of 40 or going up, Kirkpatrick says.
Indeed, mounting evidence suggests that probiotics play a role in keeping the gut healthy and clean, and your weight down, and also are a factor in lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke—all of which is very important around the boundary 40s when muscle mass starts to decrease and fat starts to increase, making it easier to put on weight and develop insulin resistance.
Truly, you can get probiotics in some dairy products and fermented soy products like seitan, but foods typically will not contain as many strains of probiotics as a food supplement does. Each strain comes with its own benefit, some for weight control, others for helping prevent diarrhea.
In addition, because probiotics are actually live and active cultures, you won’t be able to get them from foods that are thermally processed [that is cooked or heated].
TAKE A MOMENT TO SHARE IT
Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute
National Institutes of Health
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program at UCLA