Minerals to Know as You Grow Older

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Minerals to Know as You Grow OlderToday, Dr. Juan begins a multi-part series that focuses on nutrition in the older individual. As we age, our dietary requirements change and become more important than ever. In part one, I look at the minerals to know and understand.

By the year 2030 in the U.S. the number of people over 65 years of age will climb to 84 million. That is far beyond the 34.6 million in 2000. By that time, aging adults will make up one-quarter of the country’s population as all baby boomers meet retirement age. All of these individuals need to pay close attention to their dietary requirements, because nutrients get more important as you grow older. Your body needs more of them, and it is more prone to side effects and illness if it doesn’t have enough of them.

Let’s start with a refresher on what certain minerals do in the body, for their roles are extremely important. Sometimes they get lost in all the talk about vitamins.

— Chromium: Involved in insulin action and glucose (blood sugar) metabolism; no clearly defined chromium deficiency syndrome.

— Selenium: Essential for the production of antioxidants; to have a deficiency is rare — but it can cause heart disease, muscle weakness, liver cancer, and joint damage.

(Here are some more benefits of selenium: This Mineral Could Shield You From Bladder Cancer)

— Zinc: An essential mineral with important effects on immune function and brain activities; important for maintaining normal vitamin E levels in the blood and helps in the absorption of vitamin A; plays a role in wound healing, promoting a healthy appetite, and fighting off infections; deficiency is common in malnourished elderly individuals, especially those with liver cirrhosis or diabetes, or who are on hemodialysis or taking diuretics.

— Calcium: Mainly from dairy, everyone knows that calcium keeps your bones strong and helps prevent osteoporosis and resulting bone fractures; also controls blood pressure in mild-to-moderate hypertension.

— Copper: Aids in iron absorption and wound healing.

— Iron: Absolutely essential for the transport and release of oxygen molecule in our body; needed by every red blood cell.

— Magnesium: Essential for nerve and muscle functions, and calcium and phosphorus metabolism; various foods are rich sources: green vegetables, nuts, soybean, and brown rice.