Certain vitamins keep the mind humming along, helping it store and access information. Some nutrients sharpen recall by building neural connections, red blood cells, and energy. Others protect memory by curbing brain inflammation and cellular damage. Here are a few important vitamins your senior loved one needs for a nimble mind.
Also known as thiamine, this nutrient fuels the brain. B1 converts carbohydrates into glucose, a sugar that powers the nervous system. Low B1 is associated with poor diet, high-dose diuretics, Crohn’s disease, excessive alcohol intake, and diabetes. The recommended daily intake for B1 is 1.2 mg for men and 1.1 mg for women. Foods rich in thiamine include fish, dairy, beans, whole grains, eggs, seeds, and nuts.
Also termed cobalamin, B12 sustains myelin sheaths, nerve coverings that streamline impulse transmission. This vitamin also supports the production of red blood cells, sending oxygen to the brain. Through these two mechanisms, B12 aids focus and memory. Older adults are prone to B12 deficiency for a few reasons. First, with aging, stomach cells naturally produce less digestive acid. This is further diminished if your loved one takes acid-reducing medication for indigestion, acid reflux, or peptic ulcers. A vegan or strict vegetarian diet supplies inadequate B12, since plants don’t have sustainable amounts. Additionally, diabetic medications can interfere with B12 absorption. Blood testing can identify a B12 shortfall in your loved one.
Dairy foods and eggs are rich in B12. You’ll also find B12 in fortified breakfast cereals, soy products, and non-dairy milks. If fortified foods are the main source of B12 for your loved one, offer three servings daily. This ensures meeting the recommended daily intake (RDI) of 6 mcg. If your loved one has a poor appetite, supplement his or her diet with synthetic B12, found in multivitamins and B-complex formulas. Synthetic B12 doesn’t require stomach acid for assimilation.
Also in the B vitamin family, folate plays roles similar to those performed by B1 and B12—producing red blood cells and energy. Folate is also a building block of nerve tissue. In seniors, folate increases alertness and memory while reducing the risk of depression and Alzheimer’s disease. The synthetic form of folate is folic acid, less subject to degradation with cooking and storage than the naturally occurring form. In 2007, Dutch researchers evaluated the effects of folic acid supplementation on cognitive function. Study participants consisted of 818 adults, ages 50 to 70, divided into two groups. Over three years, one group took a placebo, while the other received 800 mcg of folic acid. Compared to the placebo group, the adults on folic acid scored much higher on tests of data processing speed, response time, and memory. These remarkable findings were published in The Lancet.
Low folate leads to high blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that promotes blood vessel narrowing (medically termed atherosclerosis). This condition raises the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack, and stroke. The RDI for folate is 400 mcg daily. Rich sources include asparagus, broccoli, spinach, cantaloupe, oranges, bananas, legumes, eggs, walnuts, and sunflower seeds. Folic acid is supplied by fortified breakfast cereals and enriched flours, breads, and pastas. If your loved one is a poor eater, you can supplement with folic acid.
Memory loss in seniors can be the result of a variety of factors, and its severity can range from annoying to debilitating. Certain age-related conditions can make it more challenging for seniors to age in place safely and comfortably, but Allentown live-in care experts are available around the clock to help seniors manage their health. Whether your loved one is living with dementia or is recovering from a stroke, you can trust the professional live-in caregivers from Home Care Assistance to enhance his or her quality of life.
This nutrient is an antioxidant, a compound shielding against cellular damage from unstable molecules called free radicals. The brain is especially vulnerable to free radical injury. However, vitamin E protects neurons from being harmed. Vitamin E deficits aren’t common. Mostly they result from Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, fat metabolism disorders, and gastrointestinal surgery. Research shows mixed results regarding the danger of supplementation. Therefore, when blood testing shows a deficiency, give vitamin E pills only after obtaining a doctor’s approval. The RDI for vitamin E is 15 mg, readily achievable through diet. Optimal sources are almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts, avocados, spinach, broccoli, and tomatoes.
If your loved one is experiencing cognitive decline, a trained professional caregiver can help with both preparing nutritious meals and providing cognition-boosting exercises. There are many reasons seniors might need assistance at home. Some may require regular mental stimulation due to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, while others might only need part-time assistance with exercise and basic household tasks. Home Care Assistance is a leading Allentown senior care provider. Families rely on our expertly trained caregivers to help their senior loved ones maintain a high quality of life.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These nutrients repair damaged myelin sheaths by sealing them with healthy fat. Two types of omega-3 fatty acids with this healing power are DHA and EPA. By facilitating neural communication, DHA enhances strategic thinking, response time, and memory. EPA protects the brain from inflammation, which is linked to cognitive decline and depression. Low omega-3 fatty acid levels are directly related to nutritional shortfalls. Seniors deficient in DHA have reduced brain volume, speeding cognitive decline.
While there’s no established RDI for omega-3 fatty acids, the consensus among dietary authorities is 250 to 500 mg of combined DHA and EPA daily. The safe upper limit is 3,000 mg per day. These oils are plentiful in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines. Two weekly servings meet the recommended omega-3 quota. The body can also produce DHA and EPA from ALA, another type of omega-3. ALA is present in walnuts, chia seeds, canola oil, flaxseeds, and soybeans. However, these foods yield low amounts of DHA and EPA. More efficient is eating fish or taking fish oil supplements.
If your loved one finds it challenging to get the necessary amount of vitamins and nutrients every day, consider bringing in a trained professional caregiver to help. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of home care. Allentown families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. If your loved one needs help with the challenges of aging, call one of our compassionate Care Managers today at 484-350-3874.