Vitamins and minerals are very important for our overall health – they help us ward off numerous ailments and are also important for the proper functioning of our organs. According to Kristin Kirkpatrick, MD, these nutrients are important are always important for our health, but especially after we turn 40. As she says, at this time in our life, the rules start to change.
“Your body probably isn’t working the same way at 40-plus as it was at 20,” she says. Muscle mass starts to deteriorate, we’re much more likely to put on weight, menopause may (or may soon) start, and risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes begins to increase—which means your battle plan needs to start looking a little different. One solution is getting enough of the right vitamins and nutrients, which is possible through healthy eating—and food sources are typically (but not always) a better bet than supplements because they’re better absorbed,” she says.
Here are the vitamins and minerals our body requires after the age of 40:
For years, we all thought that calcium is only important for the bones. However, several studies have shown that increasing the calcium intake doesn’t reduce the risk of fractures. Even worse, calcium supplements have been found to raise the risk of stroke and cardiac arrest. Although are body can absorb all the calcium it needs under the age of 30, it is also important in the later stages of life. Calcium is required for proper muscle contractions and proper nerve and muscle function as well as other processes in the body. Calcium is still important after the age of 40, but you shouldn’t take too much of it. More calcium is not always better and may even harm your heart health. Women over 40 needs about 1000 mg. a day, while women older than 50 need 1200 mg. You can get the mineral from broccoli, almonds, spinach, dairy products and sardines.
The body relies on vitamin B12 for proper blood and brain function. Although younger people can absorb it from food, things change after turning 40 as the levels of stomach acid deplete. This is why it’s best to take multivitamin or vitamin B12 supplements after 40. According to Kirkpatrick, you can’t get too much of it – vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin so you’ll just excrete the excess.
Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients for our health. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to serious health problems and the risk only rises as we age. The vitamin is also important for proper calcium absorption. It can be found in cereal, fortified grains and dairy products as well as fish, but the best source of vitamin D is the sun. However, not many people get enough sunlight. Some live in areas with low sunlight, so Kirkpatrick suggests taking vitamin D3 supplements. You should aim for 600 IU (International Units) per day, although you can go as high as 4000 UI. Take vitamin D seriously – it has been associated with heart disease, multiple sclerosis and several types of cancer.
After the age of 40 the risk of high blood pressure rises significantly, and things are even worse if you’re magnesium deficient. This mineral is important for proper muscle, nerve and heart function, but it can also regulate the blood sugar levels. Lack of it has been linked to diabetes, inflammation and heart disease. The levels of magnesium can be increased by eating more beans, soy, nuts, avocado and various seeds. However, make sure to limit the intake to about 320 mg. a day as too much of the mineral may cause cramps, nausea and diarrhea.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Although they’re not vitamins or minerals, omega-3 fatty acids are important for our health. They can reduce the signs of aging and control the blood pressure, while also reducing the level of cholesterol and preventing the risk of numerous cardiovascular diseases. Studies have also discovered that omega-3s can keep the brain properly functioning and the memory sharp. One study showed that people with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids have larger brains and performed better in memory tests, which means that the compounds play a big role in proper brain health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are present in walnuts, flaxseeds, fish and leafy green veggies, but taking supplements is usually better. Kirkpatrick recommends getting 500 mg. if you’re healthy, 800-1000 mg. if you’re suffering from heart disease and 2000-4000 mg. if you have high triglyceride levels. Your doctor can suggest the optimal dosage according to your age and health status.
Potassium is important for the cardiovascular system. It keeps the blood pressure under control and lack of it has been related to increased risk of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. In the past, 3.1 mg. of potassium a day has been considered high, but this is still lower than the actual safe amount of 4.7 mg. a day. Some studies have shown that taking only 2 mg. of potassium a day can be beneficial as well.
Potassium is one of the most important minerals for our health. However, Kirkpatrick suggests avoiding potassium supplements and relying on food sources instead. Potassium supplements have been known to cause arrhythmia and problems in the gastrointestinal tract. The best sources of potassium are bananas, dark leafy greens, beans and lentils. If you choose potassium supplements, your doctor should monitor your intake and how they affect your health.
Just like omega-3s, probiotics aren’t vitamins or minerals, but they’re just as important for our overall health, especially after turning 40. There’s an increasing amount of evidence that relates probiotics with lower risk of heart disease, stroke or diabetes, and getting them after the age of 40 is important due to the decrease in muscle mass and the higher risk of insulin resistance and weight gain.
Probiotics are present in dairy products and fermented soy products, it’s better to take them as a supplement. Foods don’t contain as much strains as supplements and each one comes with its own benefits – some are for weight control, while others prevent diarrhea. As they’re actually live cultures, they can be destroyed by cooking, so it’s best to take them in the form of supplements.