Carers Confidential is our regular blog post aiming to offer advice, information and support to those of us in the care industry. It is specifically for carers, by carers.
As we age, it becomes increasingly important to pay attention to our nutrient intake to maintain good physical and mental health. While many people focus on improving their diet or exercise routine in the new year, few consider the importance of increasing their intake of essential vitamins, such as vitamin D and B vitamins.
Vitamin D is crucial for maintaining good bone health, fighting depression, and protecting against colds. It also plays a key role in reducing the risk of dementia, yet over half of adults in the UK are deficient in this vitamin. Older individuals are especially at risk due to their reduced ability to produce vitamin D through sun exposure.
To boost vitamin D levels, try incorporating foods such as fatty fish (e.g., salmon and trout), canned tuna, fortified orange juice, egg yolks, and fortified cereals into your diet. In addition, vitamin D supplements are available at most supermarkets, pharmacies, and health stores.
If you enjoy the warmth of the sun, you can also benefit from exposure to ultraviolet B rays. Just be sure to practice safe sun habits and avoid overexposure. Alternatively, consider using your own ultraviolet lamp or visiting a tanning salon in moderation.
B vitamins, including B12, are essential for maintaining healthy brain and memory function. Vitamin B12 helps with the normal functioning of the nervous system and blood formation. Deficiency in this vitamin can cause symptoms similar to those of dementia. It is most common in older adults and vegetarians, as it is typically found in animal protein.
To increase your intake of B vitamins, incorporate sources such as shellfish, beef liver, fish (e.g., mackerel), fortified soy products, and cereals into your diet. Supplements are also available, including B complex supplements that contain multiple B vitamins.
In addition to B12, other important B vitamins include thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid, pyridoxine (B6), and folic acid. Thiamin helps to keep nerves and muscles healthy and is found in vegetables, eggs, fruit, peas, liver, and wholegrain breads. Riboflavin is important for maintaining healthy skin, eyes, and nervous system and is found in dairy products and rice. Niacin helps to keep the nervous and digestive systems healthy and is found in dairy, meat, fish, and wheat flour. Pantothenic acid helps to release energy from the foods we eat and is found in almost all meat and vegetable sources. Pyridoxine helps our body to store and use energy and helps form hemoglobin. It is found in lots of foods such as bread, pork, fish, eggs, peanuts, potatoes, and milk. Folic acid works together with B12 to form healthy red blood cells and reduces the risk of central nervous system defects. It is found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, chickpeas, liver, and brown rice.
Ensuring that older individuals receive adequate amounts of essential vitamins and nutrients can be challenging and emotionally draining. If you are unsure where to start, consider reaching out to healthcare professionals who can provide guidance and support. A healthcare professional can also provide advice on dietary changes and supplements to help improve nutrient intake.
In summary, maintaining adequate levels of essential vitamins, such as vitamin D and B vitamins, is crucial for good physical and mental health, especially as we age. Incorporating nutrient-rich foods into our diets and taking supplements can help ensure that we maintain healthy levels of these essential vitamins. If you need support or guidance, consider reaching out to healthcare professionals who can provide personalised advice and recommendations.