There are many vitamins that you probably already know are important to include in your diet, including calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, and E. But there is one vital but often overlooked vitamin whose lack can cause serious health problems: vitamin B12.
Benefits of Vitamin B12 for Seniors
Vitamin B12 is crucial for keeping your blood and nervous system healthy. It also plays an important role in cognitive health. It helps generate cell growth and supports the immune system and bone health. Nearly every major system in the body is impacted by vitamin B12.
What is the Normal Level of Vitamin B12 in Elderly Adults?
A blood test showing a serum vitamin B12 level between 300 and 350 pg/mL is ideal for seniors, while anything between 200 and 900 pg/mL is considered normal. An elderly person should be getting 2.5 micrograms of B12 per day. A typical Western diet generally contains around 5 to 7 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day.
So what does all this mean on a practical level?
Vitamin B12 is broken down by stomach acid. As we age, the amount of stomach acid we have begins to decline. Therefore, even if you are eating a healthy diet, it is important to have your vitamin B12 tested during your yearly bloodwork and talk to your doctor about adding supplements or vitamin B12 shots.
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B12 Deficiency Neurological Symptoms in the Elderly
Often the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency in older adults are missed as they are similar to natural signs of aging. Because vitamin B12 is important for nerve function and cognition, there are neurological signs that can indicate a vitamin b12 deficiency. They include:
Tingling or numbness in the hands, legs or feet
Difficulty walking or other balance problems
Paranoia or hallucinations
Memory issues or confusion
Anemia can also be caused by a lack of B12 for seniors, which will be indicated by symptoms like sore mouth, swollen tongue, diarrhea and yellowing skin.
How to Treat Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The easiest way to treat vitamin B12 deficiency is with supplements. A B12 vitamin generally contains 1,000 to 2,000 micrograms of B12. Intramuscular shots are also an option. One of the benefits of B12 shots for the elderly is that it bypasses any concern about the body’s ability to absorb the B12 in the stomach.
It is also worth noting that vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products like eggs, ham, chicken, beef liver, yogurt, cheese, milk, and fish. Vegetarians and vegans often need vitamin B supplements to support their diet.
Is Too Much B12 Bad for Seniors?
Unlike some other vitamins, it is for all intents and purposes impossible to overdose on vitamin B12 - it does not cause toxicity when levels are high.
So at your next doctor’s appointment, check in on your vitamin B12 levels and make sure you are getting enough vitamins in your life.