As you age your nutritional needs change – you begin losing bone and muscle, your metabolic rate drops, maintaining a healthy weight becomes more difficult than ever, and the risk of chronic diseases begins to increase. Unfortunately, aging is not a reversible process and humans have yet to discover a way to halt it.
But until then, there is a lot that you can do to ensure your body gets proper nourishment and stays optimally healthy at any age. Although eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can offer amazing benefits for everyone, these activities become truly crucial around age 40, when many bodily systems become more vulnerable to injury and disease and the weakest areas of your health that could be overlooked at age 20 are now more prominent than ever.
In the past few decades, researchers successfully unlocked many of the mysteries of the body’s aging clock and found out that specific nutrients are of vital importance for combating the negative aspects of aging. Proper nutrition can help to slow down the aging process and fight off age-related ailments, and adequate intake of certain essential vitamins and minerals can greatly contribute to keeping your body and mind strong and young.
Here are the top 7 age-fighting vitamins that you should become a staple in your wellness and longevity regime after age 40.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin with a plethora of key functions in the body – it keeps your nerves and red blood cells healthy, it allows the smooth functioning of critical body processes such as the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose for energy needs, it helps fight off the negative physiological effects of stress, promotes digestive health, aids cell reproduction and helps control blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Many people, especially heavy drinkers and smokers and vegetarians develop vitamin B12 deficiency, characterized with fatigue, anemia, constipation, loss of appetite, depression, poor memory and vision problems.
Children and younger adults are likely to get all the vitamin B12 they need from their diet, which is most abundant in chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products, but as the body ages, its ability to properly absorb vitamin B12 deteriorates. This process is most noticeable after age 50, but the sooner you start getting B12 from a supplement or multivitamin, the better.
This will help combat brain shrinkage and stimulate a healthy regulation of the nervous system, as well fortify your organism’s defenses against breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer. Aim for 2.4 mg per day, which is the current recommended dietary allowance.
Calcium is important for optimal bone health during every phase of your life. The body needs calcium to build and maintain strong bones, but your heart, muscles and nerves also need it to function properly. If you don’t get enough calcium, you could face health problems related to weak bones, such as osteoporosis.
Since adults age 40 and older are already prone to bone loss, they require larger amounts of calcium to maintain their bone health and dental health. With so many low-calorie diets trending around us, we often tend to demonize and avoid calcium-rich foods like dairy products, which severely worsens the problem because when the body doesn’t get enough calcium from the diet it resorts to stealing it from your bones.
Certain studies suggest that increased calcium intake offers other important benefits for older adults besides osteoporosis prevention, such as protecting against cancer, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Calcium will help strengthen your bones and keep them in their proper shape, alleviate back pain, protect your heart muscles by helping them contract and relax properly, and normalize the pressure in your arteries.
The best news is that you don’t need to take calcium supplements because eating a well-balanced diet with calcium-rich foods will provide adequate amounts of this valuable nutrient. Calcium is available in milk, dairy products like yogurt and cheese, nuts, salmon and seeds. Also, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, leafy greens including spinach, as well as most varieties of peas can significantly increase the calcium levels in your diet.
Every vitamin and mineral has its role in the healthy functioning of the body, but vitamin D is a part of the “big league” of nutrients that are involved in pretty much every body process and when they’re not around in healthy amounts, multiple health issues tend to arise. Among other things, vitamin D maintains the health of bones and teeth, helps regulate insulin levels, supports the health of the immune system and even influences the expression of genes involved in cancer development.
According to research, vitamin D is especially important after age 40, because its role in the prevention of age-related ailments is pretty much invaluable. One 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that getting enough vitamin D can reduce your risk of multiple sclerosis, while another one published in Circulation claims that optimal vitamin D levels drastically decrease the chance of developing heart disease in older adults. In addition, vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium in the body. On the other hand, vitamin D deficiency usually manifests as osteoporosis, the most common bone disease in people over the age 50.
How can you get optimal doses of vitamin D? Dietary sources of vitamin D include fish, dairy products and grains, but unfortunately the D we get from food is poorly absorbed in the body, and the best source of this vitamin (that’s actually a pro-hormone) is – the sun. Our bodies are designed to produce vitamin D from sunlight, a process that begins by the conversion of cholesterol on the skin into calciol, which in turn gets converted by the kidneys into the active form of vitamin D, called calcitriol.
Multiple reliable studies have suggested that calcitriol can reduce cancer progression by slowing the growth of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue and increasing cancer cell death. However, if you live somewhere where sunny days are scarce, you can get a vitamin D3 supplement, which is the next best option after the type that you would get from the sun. Aim for 600-800 IU per day.
Magnesium is one of the six essential macro-minerals that make up 99% of the body’s mineral content, and hundreds of studies have proven magnesium’s benefits toward health. Without the presence of magnesium in the organism, energy could not be produced or used in the cells, muscles could not contract and relax, and crucial hormones could not be synthesized.
Therefore, magnesium can play a major role in protecting health and preventing chronic diseases and malfunctions. According to the National Institutes of Health, adequate magnesium levels are required for maintaining normal muscle and nerve function, steady heart rhythm, bone strength and density and a healthy immune system.
But perhaps the most important function of magnesium in people over the age 40 is blood pressure regulation. High magnesium intake has been shown to reduce the risk of developing hypertension and heart disease in adults, as well as providing powerful protection against inflammation.
Furthermore, new clinical studies also suggest that magnesium supplements can effectively treat chronic migraines, which tend to be very common in women between ages 40-60. If you strive to eat a healthy, balanced diet, you’re probably getting good amounts of magnesium and don’t need to take supplements. But just in case, up your intake of dark leafy greens, beans, soy, nuts, seeds and avocados.
However, if you think you might be deficient, consult your physician for further advice. Magnesium supplements are fairly inexpensive and available in a variety of forms with different absorption rates – magnesium chelate, magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate are absorbed better than other forms.
The most important health benefits of potassium include protection from heart stroke and kidney disorders, as well as enhanced muscle strength, improved metabolic rate and lower levels of stress and anxiety. This is the third most abundant mineral in the human body that contains the components for maintaining optimal well-being and health. For starters, potassium contributes to keeping brain function at a normal level by allowing more oxygen to reach the brain, thus stimulating neural activity and enhancing cognitive function.
Furthermore, thanks to its vasodilating properties that help relieve the tension of blood vessels, potassium plays a key role in keeping blood pressure in check in people of all ages, but especially in older adults. Research has shown that older adults who eat foods higher in potassium are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure and experience heart strokes than those who eat less potassium-rich foods, but it has also found that the majority of older American women do not eat the recommended amounts of potassium from foods.
A balanced diet should offer adequate amounts of potassium. The recommended daily allowance is 4.7 grams, but significant health improvements can also be seen in people increasing their intake to as little as 2 grams per day. The most important dietary sources of potassium are citrus fruits, bananas, avocados, vegetables and grains.
Second best choices include salmon, chicken, milk, potatoes and almonds. But when it comes to potassium supplements, you should be very careful – too much of this nutrient can cause harm to the gastrointestinal tract and even trigger dangerous cardiac arrhythmias.
Omega-3 fatty acids deserve a special place on this list because of their powerful health benefits for older adults, including combating the negative changes that accompany aging, the most prominent of which are increased heart disease risk and cognitive deterioration.
Several health agencies have established omega-3 recommendations based on research findings which clearly show that omega-3 supplementation can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, lower triglyceride levels and LDL cholesterol levels, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. According to these, the daily amount of omega-3 fatty acids, including both EPA and DHA, required for adults of both sexes is 800 to 1,000 milligrams daily.
The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on human health have been well-documented by countless studies, especially in terms of brain function. Most recently, one large study found that people with higher blood levels of omega-3s had bigger brains and performed significantly better on memory tests and tasks that demand abstract thinking than individuals who had lower levels.
You can get omega-3s from oily fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, soybeans and leafy vegetables, but you can also make sure you’re getting enough by taking a fish oil supplement.