Although old age is one of the highest risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency, you don’t need to surrender yourself to symptoms like fatigue, memory loss, or painful numbness in your golden years. By taking necessary precautions, many individuals over the age of 65 are able to prevent developing a deficiency in this vital nutrient, vitamin B12.
What is vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a necessary nutrient that your body uses to produce plenty of healthy red blood cells, synthesize DNA, and maintain nervous system integrity. When your body does not get enough vitamin B12, the result is a severe vitamin B12 deficiency.
B12 deficiency makes you feel constantly tired, forgetful, disoriented, and depressed, in addition to causing unusual symptoms like painful tingling in the hands and feet, and “electric shock” sensations.
Over time, untreated vitamin B12 deficiency may cause debilitating nerve damage, increased risk for heart disease and stroke, or death.
B12 deficiency does not discriminate
It’s a common myth that only senior citizens need to worry about getting vitamin B12 deficiency. While it’s true that your ability to digest vitamin B12 from foods such as beef, chicken, and fish diminishes with age, there are nevertheless many other risk factors for vitamin B12 malabsorption to consider.
In addition to old age, other risk factors for developing severe vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Vegan dieting
- Autoimmune disorders (celiac disease, lupus)
- Family history for pernicious anemia
- Gastrointestinal disorder (Crohn’s disease, IBS)
- Bariatric surgery (gastric bypass)
- Ileectomy (removal of the ileum)
- Protein pump inhibitors (PPIs) for GERD
- Metformin medication for diabetes
Vitamin B12 deficiency in old age
Elderly individuals are at risk for developing vitamin B12 deficiency because they produce fewer digestive enzymes required to absorb vitamin B12 naturally from food.
As a result, many senior citizens suffer fatigue, confusion, memory loss, anxiety, and depression, as a result of an underlying vitamin B12 deficiency that is too often overlooked.
Especially when Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia have already been diagnosed, many physicians fail to realize that dementia symptoms may be exacerbated by undiagnosed vitamin B12 deficiency or pernicious anemia.
B12 and brain health
Many oft-cited scientific studies have shown that supplementation of vitamin B12 can delay the advancement of dementia in old age, and extend cognitive health dramatically.
Patients diagnosed with dementia who maintained healthy levels of serum vitamin B12 scored far better on mental acuity tests than elderly individuals who suffered from vitamin B12 deficiency. MRI reports reflected these findings, as dementia patients with normal vitamin B12 levels have fuller brain mass than their peers with vitamin B12 deficiency.
Doctors advise routine supplementation of vitamin B12 for boosting brain health, delaying age-related dementia, and maintaining energy.
Do you have any questions or suggestions related to old age and vitamin B12 deficiency? Please leave your comments below.
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