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I'm a woman, 41, and eat a balanced diet and take a multivitamin. Do I need fish oil and calcium, too?

Nutritionist, WebMD Medical Expert
University of Maryland

As a 41-year-old-woman, when you think of supplements, you consider age, gender, family medical history, your medical history, and your specific lifestyle habits (exercise and nutrition). The key is to try to get what you can from whole foods in nutrition. And, to do regular exercise (optimally getting in about 30 minutes with some intensity, for sure). Why? This allows your body to optimize its own physiology so that you can boost immune function and live your best life.

That being said, studies show that it's tough for most people to get what they need from their usual sources of everyday nutrition. I'd definitely check in with your medical team and discuss supplements as they know your history and can help guide you.

And, as we get a bit older, we have special needs. So, a multivitamin that includes iron, if you're still menstruating, is a basic supplement for most women your age. Fish oil is excellent for many reasons and you want to add at the minimum 1000 mg. Your medical team may want to increase that based on your history (family and personal) of heart disease. Calcium fortified with Vit D is a must to prevent osteoporosis. Clearly you want to consume calcium-rich foods like dairy, but most women do need more and thus the supplement. I would add Vit D at 1000 IU as new studies have shown that our current RDA is probably too low. Vit D (as Vit D3 or cholecalciferol) has been shown to be remarkably helpful in boosting immune function all 'round.

These are the basics. Before taking anything more and turning yourself into a science fair project, sit down with your physician and discuss. And please get that physical activity and whole food lifestyle going.

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