Should Seniors Take a Multivitamin?


As our bodies change with age, so do our nutritional needs. It might make sense that taking a multivitamin is an excellent idea. But you might be surprised to learn that several studies have thrown the use of multivitamins into question. Do seniors really need one? And if so, which one? Are there alternatives to multivitamins that elderly adults should be considering?

Though the best way to get the nutrients you need is always through fresh foods in a healthy diet, sometimes that doesn’t work out as well as one might hope. A loss of appetite as you get older, living on a fixed income that can make produce rather costly, problems with your teeth, and an inability to cook (often due to mobility issues) can make it hard for seniors to get the nutrients they need. Though you might be able to get some extra nutrients through fortified foods, such as cereals, milk, orange juice, and yogurt, that might not be quite enough[1].

If you do choose to take a multivitamin, you’re in good company. Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that 70% of those aged 65 and older take a multivitamin or some other supplement on a regular basis. A study in The Journal of Nutrition found that 29% of seniors are taking four or more supplements every day. And that’s often in addition to the prescription medications taken by the elderly on a daily basis to handle chronic conditions.

When you’re taking so many supplements and medications, it can sometimes be tough to keep track of all of them, as well as possible interactions and side effects. That’s one of many reasons why it’s so important to consider a medical alert system with fall detection to keep seniors safer. If you begin to feel the side effects of medication or suffer from a drug interaction, help is literally a single button push away!

The Argument for Taking a Daily Multivitamin

Taking a multivitamin can have some health benefits. Seniors might have more trouble absorbing nutrients. This can be due to a natural consequence of aging or because of medications you’re taking that might block absorption of those nutrients. That means that a multivitamin can “bridge the gap” and give you the extra nutrients you need, and that can give you an energy boost.

According to Medicare Advantage, there are several other reasons why a multivitamin might be a good idea as we get older:

·         The ability to chew and digest food can become more difficult with age, so the healthy fruits and veggies you love can become hard to eat.

·         Brittle bones can benefit from a boost of calcium, vitamin D, and other bone-friendly nutrients.

·         Older adults might not get as much exposure to the sun as they once did, which means their body isn’t producing as much vitamin D.

·         Some medications flush the nutrients out of your system before the body has a chance to absorb them. Some medical conditions can also make it tough to get enough of a particular vitamin.

·         Not cooking as often in the elderly years can mean less fresh foods, which cuts down on the amount of nutrients you get through diet.

Reasons Why You Can Skip the Multivitamin

But just as there are advantages to taking a multivitamin, there can be some disadvantages as well. Many people might use multivitamins as a substitute for healthier eating – and the best way to get nutrients is through fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods, not through a pill. There are a few other reasons some might want to avoid multivitamins:

·         Some multivitamins might interfere with your medications

·         Multivitamins might lead to nausea, vomiting, and headaches

·         Multivitamins can’t prevent disease and they don’t increase your lifespan[2]

·         There is no benefit for those who already have a healthy diet

Unless there is a clear reason why you shouldn’t take a multivitamin, your doctor is likely to tell you that “it can’t hurt” and even give you suggestions on which ones you might want to take. But always talk to your doctor before you choose a supplement of any kind, and remember that just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous.

Ingredients in the Right Multivitamin

If you choose to take a multivitamin, your doctor might recommend one that has certain ingredients or a certain recommended daily value of those ingredients. The doctor might also tell you that you don’t need a multivitamin, but that you do need supplements of some kind. Here are some of the most common, according to WebMD:

·         Vitamin B12. This is a powerhouse vitamin that can boost your energy. Adults should be getting 2.4 micrograms of B12 each day to help your body create red blood cells and have better nerve function. On the other hand, not getting enough B12 affects your cognitive ability and puts you at greater risk of heart disease. Many elderly individuals take a vitamin B12 supplement because as we get older, our stomach lining no longer absorbs B12 like it used to.

·         Vitamin D. Those who are between the ages of 51 and 70 need 15 micrograms of vitamin D every day, while those over the age of 70 need 20 micrograms a day. This nutrient helps your body absorb calcium, which makes your bones stronger. It boosts your immune system and has many other benefits, including improving your mood.

·         Calcium. Speaking of bones, women over the age of 51 need 1,200 milligrams of calcium every day. Men need 1,000 milligrams every day until they hit 70, when they need 1,200 every day. Calcium is absolutely essential for bone health and avoiding fractures.

·         Potassium. Men need more potassium than women. Men of any age should get 3,400 milligrams every day, while women should get 2,600 milligrams. It helps your heart, kidney, and nerve function. Not getting enough can lead to high blood pressure, kidney stones, and other problems.

·         Magnesium. Great for the muscles, nerves, and blood sugar levels, magnesium is another essential nutrient. Men need 420 milligrams, while women need 320 milligrams every day.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that older adults need to make sure they get enough potassium, vitamin D, fiber, vitamin B12, and calcium. If you’re not sure where to begin, talk to your doctor and check out the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to learn how much of each nutrient you might need.

Not getting enough of a particular vitamin or nutrient can lead to a variety of health issues, depending upon the particular vitamin you aren’t getting. A vitamin deficiency, even a slight one, can potentially lead to slower wound healing, cognitive issues, anemia, and a greater risk of infection, among other problems[3]. If you are dealing with a vitamin deficiency, doctor-approved supplements may be a good way to work on that.

But at all times, staying safe is imperative. To that end, using a an emergency button alarm with fall detection from Alert1 is an excellent idea. Our on-the-go models can be especially helpful for those who are active. You can enjoy the feeling of freedom and safety a medical alert device brings, no matter where you are.

What to Look For When Choosing a Multivitamin

When you’re looking at the seemingly endless array of multivitamins on the shelf, it’s easy to become confused and simply pick one at random. But that’s not a good idea, as there are certain standards set for supplements that help ensure they aren’t dangerous.

Look at the ingredient labels and determine which ones have the nutrients you actually need. For instance, your doctor might recommend that you need more B12 – in that case, look for a multivitamin that has a higher daily value of B12. If your doctor has said that you shouldn’t take anything with iron, look for a multivitamin that doesn’t include it.

Then look for approvals on the label. You want to see an approval by USP, which is the United States Pharmacopeia, or NSF, the National Science Foundation. These approvals let you know that the daily values and amounts are correct, and that there are no harmful ingredients in the multivitamin[4].

Your doctor might also recommend that instead of taking a multivitamin, you opt for certain supplements instead. Perhaps the doctor suggests taking vitamin D and calcium; in that case, look specifically for those supplements and skip the multivitamin altogether.

Paying for a Multivitamin

The cost of multivitamins and supplements can add up quickly. In some cases, Medicare will cover the cost of supplements if they are prescribed by a doctor to treat a certain condition. Niacin and vitamin D are two examples of medications covered by Medicare Part B when they are needed to treat a medical issue. If you have kidney disease, diabetes, or are recovering from a kidney transplant, supplements might be covered by a nutrition therapy program[5].

Keep Track of the Medications and Vitamins You Take

When you’re taking multiple medications, it’s vitally important to have a system to keep track of them. Keeping the medications in their bottles can be fine if you’re only taking one or two of them, but most elderly adults take more than that. The medication dispenser, reminder, and organizer from Alert1 can help you organize your medications so that you take the right ones, on time, every time.

Some medications can lead to side effects, such as dizziness, weakness, or fatigue. Alert1 offers emergency response solutions for seniors that can provide peace of mind 24/7. Our affordable medical alert bracelets, pendants, and belt clips can bring fast help right to you with the touch of a button.