Experts estimate that up to 20% of people aged 50 and older may be low in vitamin B12, with this deficiency becoming more common as people get older.
The Most Common Problems Related to Low Vitamin B12 levels include:
As a result, Vitamin B12 deficiency can impact the quality of life of older adults.
Where Do We Get Our Vitamin B12?
We get it from eating meats, eggs, and dairy products. Health Canada recommends that anyone over the age of 14 get 2.4 micrograms per day – a tiny but important amount. Studies show that older adults are generally eating enough B12, yet about 1 in 4 have a vitamin B12 deficiency. This could be because as we age, our bodies are less able to absorb the vitamin B12 we eat. This is especially true when certain medications are taken, such as antacids and Metformin (used for diabetes).
Why Vitamin B12 Deficiency is Often Missed in Seniors
Because the symptoms – fatigue, anemia, neuropathy, memory problems, and walking difficulties – are quite common in older adults and can easily be caused by something else. Also, Vitamin B12 deficiency tends to come on very slowly, so people often go through a long period of being mildly deficient.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is quite treatable – you just need to make sure it’s detected and then make sure the treatment plan raises the Vitamin B12 levels and keeps them steady.
How Can we Make Sure we are Getting Enough B12?
The good news is that it is generally thought that you can’t eat too much Vitamin B12. It’s safe to eat much more than the recommended daily allowance. Besides meat, eggs and dairy products, Vitamin B12 fortified foods are also good sources – for example, cold breakfast cereals, soy milk or other non-dairy milks. Vitamin B12 supplements are also available in drug stores – your health care provider or pharmacist can help you decide on the right dose for you.
If you have any of the problems noted above and you’re concerned you might not be getting enough Vitamin B12, ask your health care provider for a blood test to check your B12 level.
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