As you age, it is important to take care of your body more than you might have in your youth. There are certain necessary vitamins and minerals that with time, become harder for the body to process or create on its own.
One such vitamin is vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver and plays a major role in cognitive functioning, amongst other things. The way to know if you have a B12 deficiency is by taking a blood test. Treatment usually means ingesting B12 through supplements or changing your diet to eat more foods rich in this vitamin.
Older people are more likely to get vitamin B12 deficiencies because it is absorbed from food by stomach acid. As you age, however, your stomach acid starts to decline. That’s why it is important to get tested for a vitamin B12 deficiency as you age.
If you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, don’t worry. It is the most common vitamin deficiency in the developing world. It is a perfectly natural deficiency for an older person to have, and there are many ways to treat it.
What Does Having a Vitamin B12 Deficiency Feel Like And What Are the Consequences?
Often, having a vitamin B12 deficiency can look or feel like symptoms associated with normal aging. A B12 deficiency can mimic or exacerbate these conditions:
- Multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders
- Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder
- Cardiovascular disease
- Autoimmune disease
However, sometimes B12 deficiencies can look a lot tamer and possibly go unchecked. Often, it can cause memory loss, cognitive decline, foggy brain, decreased mobility, and pain throughout the body.
Some physical signs that you may have a vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Tingling or numbness in the hands, legs, or feet
- Difficulty walking
- Swollen, inflamed tongue
- Yellowed skin
- Paranoia or hallucinations
Often, more long-term consequences of an advanced B12 deficiency in older people involve weaker red blood cell formation, lower metabolism, impaired nerve functioning, and weaker bone health. B12 deficiencies are also heavily linked with neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Dosages for Older People
When you’re in your 60s you should officially start getting blood tests to test for vitamin B12 deficiency. Around this age, you should be getting around 2.4 micrograms of B12 a day.
Not only does this mean consciously eating foods that contain vitamin B12 but it also means that you should ingest this vitamin as a supplement. By taking supplements, you will ensure that your body absorbs vitamin B12. Additionally, there is no way that you will overdose on B12, so don’t worry about taking too much.
This number is also higher in certain European countries as well as the fact that vitamin B12’s benefits have been speculated to be even more widespread than traditionally thought.
How Do I Treat a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Depending on your situation, you can either supplement B12 through taking oral pills or getting high concentrated shots of b12. As you get older, you should be taking more of these pills since your stomach acid declines.
Typically vegans and vegetarians are most at risk for vitamin B12 deficiencies because the only reliable food sources for B12 are animal products. Some examples with vitamin B12 rich foods include:
- Fortified cereals
- Chicken breast
- Rainbow trout
- Beef liver
- Cooked Clams
If you are an older adult, you should be taking a supplement for B12 as well as trying to incorporate B12 into your diet. It is vital for good health and cognitive functioning. Studies continue to show all the ways it is beneficial for your overall health.
So next time you go to the doctor, check and see if you need some B12 in your life.