When it comes to aging, Bebe Shaw didn't hit the genetic lottery. Her mother died from congestive heart failure, her father of a heart condition. The younger of her two brothers had a heart attack at age 52, and her younger sister is on the verge of congestive heart failure. Shaw, 69, has high cholesterol -- a serious risk factor for heart disease.
With such a checkered health history, she's not taking any chances. "I am an advocate of exercise and diet," says Shaw, who works as a paralegal in Ocala,...
Still, many seniors struggle to maintain a healthy diet. There could be many culprits, including:
Trouble finding healthy foods
Add the fact that your body become less efficient as you age, and climbing Mount Nutrition is tough.
Supplements might be an option. Used as part of a plan that you and your doctor design, they can do just what their name says -- fill in the gaps in your diet.
But they can be dangerous. Take vitamin A, important for healthy eyes, skin, and immune system, for example.
“Vitamin A is somewhat of a controversial vitamin because you can get toxic from it," says Ronni Chernoff, director of the Arkansas Geriatric Education Collaborative. Too much of it can cause nausea, headaches, dizziness, and other symptoms. She adds that older people are more likely to ail when they take too much because their bodies don’t deal with the vitamin as well.
So what do you do?
“If you take a vitamin that is designed to be a once-a-day supplement, that’s OK,” Chernoff says. “But you don’t want to take five of them a day.”
If, after talking with your doctor, you decide that you do need a multivitamin, get a complete supplement, one that provides 100% of the recommended doses of vitamins and minerals.
Be careful of megadoses. Also take extra care when you:
Take too much of one
Use one in place of a medication
Mix them with over-the-counter or prescription drugs
“You want to make sure your left hand knows what your right hand is doing,” says Joan Salge Blake, a Boston nutritionist.
Why Vitamins are Important
They help your body work the way it should. Among other things, they boost your immune system, keep your nerves healthy, and help turn the food you eat into energy.