Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that prevent numerous health problems and are vital for the proper functioning in the body. According to Kristin Kirkpatrick, MD, eating a healthy diet is always important, but especially after the age of 40. “Your body probably isn’t working the same way at 40-plus as it was at 20.
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,” Kirkpatrick says.
One way to add these important nutrients is through a healthy diet, but food is not always the better source of vitamins and minerals than supplements. Here are the 7 essential vitamins our body needs after 40:
Once you’re over 40, you should definitely supplement with vitamin B12. This vitamin is essential for proper blood and brain function. While children can get it from food, older people absorb it slower as the levels of stomach acid start depleting. When you’re nearing 50, you should think about getting a vitamin B12 supplement or take multivitamins. You should take at least 2.4 mg. a day, although higher levels of the vitamin won’t do no harm
Calcium is highly important for your health especially when you hit 40. According to a recent meta-analysis of 59 studies which examined how the mineral prevents fractures, increasing the calcium intake won’t do anything but increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Although our bones absorb the mineral when we’re young, calcium is important for the skeletal system later in life too. Besides for the bones, calcium is also important for muscle contraction, nerve and heart function and for other biochemical reactions as well. However, according to Kirkpatrick, more calcium doesn’t equal improved benefits and can even harm our heart. Most women need about 1000 mg. a day, while women over 50 need about 1200 mg. You can get the mineral through tofu, dairy products, almonds, spinach and broccoli.
Vitamin D is among the most important vitamins for our health. It plays a role in numerous important functions and lack of it has been related to heart disease, diabetes, colorectal and breast cancer and MS. Vitamin D is also important for the absorption of calcium in the body. Foods that include vitamin D include fish, fortified dairy and grains, although the best source of the vitamin is the sun. However, not everyone is exposed to a lot of sunlight. “If you’re living anywhere above Georgia, you’re probably not getting enough vitamin D from the sun. Plus, you don’t absorb it with sunscreen on—and you definitely don’t want to be hanging out in the sun without sunscreen (despite any vitamin D benefits). She recommends a D3 supplement (D3 being 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 National Institutes of Health recommendations. The tolerable upper limit (i.e., the amount that will not cause harm) is as much as 4,000 IU per day,” Kirkpatrick explains.
Magnesium is vital for our blood pressure and cardiovascular health and is especially important for women over 40. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to heart disease, inflammation and diabetes and assists the absorption of calcium in the body as well. If you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet, you’re probably not lacking magnesium. However, if you’re suspecting magnesium deficiency, go to a doctor and take a test. The mineral can be found in dark leafy green vegetables, soy, beans, seeds, nuts and avocado and too much of it is not harmful.
Potassium is one of the most important minerals for our cardiovascular health. Lack of it has been related to stroke and other cardiovascular problem. The recommended amount is 4.7 mg. a day, but according to Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, PhD and professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, you can benefit from even 2 mg. of the mineral. Although important, Kirkpatrick advises against taking potassium supplements. Too much of the mineral can cause damage to the digestive tract and cause arrhythmia which can have fatal consequences. Potassium can be found in lentils, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard and bananas.
Although it’s not a vitamin, omega-3 fatty acids have numerous health benefits and are very important if you’re over 40. Omega-3 fatty acids can counteract the harmful effects of the aging process, and studies have linked them to lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol levels. Some experts also suggest that they play a big role in sharp memory.
According to a recent study, people with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids had better cognitive function, which means that the compound can boost the brain health. The fatty acids can be found in flaxseeds, walnuts and fish. You should aim for 500 mg. a day, 800-1000 if you’re suffering from heart problems and 2000-4000 if you have high triglyceride levels. You should consult with your doctor about the proper dosage.
Probiotics are very important for women over 40. According to recent evidence, probiotics can keep your digestive tract healthy and your health in check. Experts suggest that they are also linked to diabetes, stroke and heart disease, which is why you need to add them to your diet. Although available through foods, the best way to get probiotics is through dietary supplements. They are live and active cultures which mean that you can only get them through fresh sources of food.