Nutrition for Women During the Senior Years
After menopause, women's bodies change again. The requirement for iron drops because women are no longer menstruating. Requirements for some other nutrients increase because the body loses some of its ability to absorb or metabolize them. Here are the most important nutrients to consider:
- Calcium: Although some bone loss is inevitable with age, women can slow the process by getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Women between the ages of 50 and 70 need 1200 mg of calcium and 600 IU of Vitamin D a day. Women older than 70 require 1200 mg of calcium and 800 IU of Vitamin D a day. Because the skin becomes less efficient at converting sunlight to vitamin D as we age, older women may need more vitamin D in the form of supplements. Talk to your doctor.
- B12: The body's ability to absorb this crucial vitamin also declines as women age. A diet abundant in fish, meats, and foods fortified with B12 can supply adequate amounts for most older women. But some people may need to take supplements. Again, it's wise to ask your doctor.
- Fluids: Fluid needs increase as women age. The reason: Kidneys become less efficient at removing toxins. “Drinking more fluids helps kidneys do their job,” Schwartz says. “Unfortunately, thirst signals often become impaired with age, so people are less likely to drink enough water and other fluids.” Rather than fret about how many glasses to drink, Frechman says, check the color of your urine. "It should be clear or very pale colored. If it becomes darker, you need more fluid.”
With age, and especially after menopause, calorie requirements drop again. “As women age, they inevitably lose some muscle mass,” Schwartz says. “Regular physical activity can help maintain muscle.”