5 Things You Need To Know About How Your Vitamin Needs Change As You Age
Because of the ways your hormones shift during and after menopause, women are at greater risk for osteoporosis as they age, Hildreth says. "Taking calcium to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis is a common recommendation for older women," she says. Specifically, 1,000 to 1,500 mg daily.
But taking a little extra calcium alone won't safeguard your bones. "Adequate vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption," Hildreth explains. So for people at risk for age-related bone loss, taking those two together is a good idea.
That said, taking calcium and D isn't enough, Li adds. "Bone density is determined by muscle strength, so if your muscles are weak, more calcium won't help," she says. "You need to stay active and exercise your muscles in order to keep your bones strong."
For people who eat a very poor diet, a multivitamin may help fill some nutritional gaps, Zhaoping says. But if you eat well—and especially if your diet contains a lot of nutrient-rich vegetables—you probably aren't gaining much by popping a multivitamin every day, she says. "I consider multivitamins very safe, but often a waste of money," she says. (Consider replacing your multivitamin with these 5 foods.)
Hildreth agrees, and adds that you need to watch out for multis if you're taking other supplements—like calcium. "Iron can interfere with calcium absorption, and a lot of multivitamins contain iron," she says.
Both Hildreth and Li stress that vitamin needs vary from individual to individual. What you may need to take will depend on your diet, your family history, your personal habits, the other drugs you're swallowing, and a dozen other factors. "It's best to speak with your doctor and only take what he or she advises," Zhaoping says.
Also, once your doc tells you what to take, watch out for supplements that include a bunch of other ingredients. Supplement manufacturers will often pack their products with additonal vitamins or herbs (or these unwelcomed ingredients) in order to make them seem somehow superior to all the competing products. But you don't want that extra stuff, which may come with risks, Zhaoping says.
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