4 Nutrients That Can Help Seniors Stay Healthy

As people age, their bodies change in ways that affect their nutritional requirements, from nutrient absorption problems to challenges affecting muscles and joints. If you've entered your senior years, you may need to consume more of the following nutrients to maintain optimal health and wellness.

1. Protein

Protein provides the raw material the body needs to construct and repair muscles and other tissues. As you age, however, your ability to hang onto your muscle mass naturally decreases, a problem called sarcopenia. A combination of biochemical changes and a more sedentary lifestyle can cause this condition.

A boost in your protein intake, along with regular exercise, can help reduce or control age-induced sarcopenia to some degree. Doctors recommend that seniors consume 25 to 50 percent more protein than the recommended daily allowance for younger adults. Your physician can determine the right amount of protein for your needs.

2. Calcium

Calcium gives bones much of the mineral content they need to keep remodeling themselves. As the body ages, however, bone breakdown starts to outpace new bone construction, leaving brittle bones vulnerable to fractures. For this reason, seniors should consider increasing their calcium intake.

Milk, cheese, eggs, green leafy vegetables, and the edible bones in sardines all contain calcium. You can also buy supplements, juices, and cereals fortified with this nutrient. At the same time, you'll need plenty of Vitamin D through regular sun exposure or dietary supplementation, since this vitamin helps the body use calcium.

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

As people age, they face increased risks for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and inflammatory pain problems such as arthritis. Fortunately, nature has provided a means of fighting back against these conditions, in the form of omega-3 fatty acids. You'll find these fatty acids in seafood and other staples of the Mediterranean diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids offer some huge health benefits for seniors. For starters, they can lower triglyceride levels while supporting heart health, reducing the risk for strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular issues. They can also help manage inflammation, optimize brain function, and keep the airways to the lungs open.

4. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 supports red blood cell production and nerve function. However, seniors' digestive systems often lose some of their ability to absorb this key nutrient. As the body's built-up reserve of B12 runs out, these older people can show signs of neuropathy, cognitive decline, and anemia.

If blood tests reveal a serious vitamin B12 deficiency, your doctor may prescribe 1,000-microgram injections of the vitamin to restore your reserves to healthy levels. alternatively, you may take oral vitamin B12 supplements in dosages of 1,000 to 2,000 micrograms.

A little knowledge (and action) can go a long way toward helping you or your elderly loved ones thrive. Contact your senior wellness care provider or physician to learn more about nutrition for older individuals.