, Gloucester, MA


August 16, 2013

Talk to your doctor about possible deficiencies

Older people should definitely talk about vitamins and minerals with their doctors to make sure that they are maintaining adequate levels of these nutrients. As we age, things change in our bodies, and changes in diet or in the absorption of the foods we eat can have a lasting effect on us. Nutrient levels can also be impacted by some medications, and we tend to take more medications as we age, so these conversations with our health providers should occur whenever a change is made in our care, too.

For example, there has long been an understanding that vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with cognitive decline. It’s also thought that the effects of this particular deficiency, left untreated, may be irreversible. Fortunately, a simple blood test can determine if a person is deficient in vitamin B12. Those with B12 deficiency may also have folic acid deficiency, which can cause depression and other neuropsychiatric issues (

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to daytime sleepiness, susceptibility to pneumonia, and to osteopenia and osteoporosis (vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium). It’s estimated that more than 90 percent of older Americans have a vitamin D deficiency. A recent study, published in July in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolisms, suggests that among the study participants, aged 65 to 88, those with the lowest vitamin D levels were 1.7 times as likely to have at least one physical limitation, such as difficulty climbing stairs, as those with the highest vitamin D levels.

Potassium helps maintain the fluid balance in the body. It’s also helpful in maintaining the normal functioning of muscles. If you feel weak, have spasms, muscle cramps or twitching, you might want to eat some raisins, bananas, or oranges! Severe potassium deficiency is called hypokalemia and can produce various symptoms, even muscle paralysis (

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