Skip to content

    50+: Live Better, Longer

    Font Size

    Vitamin Essentials as We Age

    By John Donovan
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian

    The best way to get the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need isn’t with a shopping spree at your local drugstore. It’s through your diet.

    A good, balanced plan -- filled with fruits and vegetables, dairy, lots of fluids, healthy oils, good proteins, and whole grains -- should do the trick.

    Recommended Related to Healthy Seniors

    Coping With a Life-Threatening Illness

    "I'm sorry, but there's nothing more we can do." No patient wants to hear that. No doctor wants to say it. And with good reason: It isn't true. It is true that in the course of many illnesses, cure ceases to be an option. But no hope of a sure cure does not mean no hope at all. It certainly does not mean there is nothing more to be done. When you receive the information that your illness is serious, a palliative care team can help you handle the news and cope with the many questions and challenges...

    Read the Coping With a Life-Threatening Illness article > >

    Still, many seniors struggle to maintain a healthy diet. There could be many culprits, including:

    • Diminished appetite
    • Trouble chewing
    • Fixed budgets
    • 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:

    • Combine supplements
    • 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.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    Eating for a longer, healthier life.
    woman biking
    How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
    womans finger tied with string
    Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
    smiling after car mishap
    9 things no one tells you about getting older.
    fast healthy snack ideas
    how healthy is your mouth
    dog on couch
    doctor holding syringe
    champagne toast
    Two women wearing white leotards back to back
    Man feeding woman
    two senior women laughing