Sunday, January 15, 2006

vitamins (minerals; vitamins A, D, E, K, B-complex and C; calcium; iron; sodium chloride)

The need for vitamins increases with age. There are two types of vitamins: fat soluble and water soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) can be stored in the body and may build up to toxic levels if consumed in large doses. The water-soluble vitamins (B-complex and C) are not stored well in the body, so they must be eaten daily. Mineral oil inhibits the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and heat and air will destroy water-soluble vitamins. Vitamin A helps prevent night blindness and is good for healthy skin and protection against infections. It is found in green vegetables, deep yellow vegetables, fortified milk, butter, and liver.
Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption and utilization of calcium in the body. It is found in green leafy vegetables, sardines, salmon, yogurt, fortified milk, and liver. Vitamin E helps transport oxygen to the blood cells and also helps protect the red blood cells. It is found in nuts, seeds, eggs, sweet potatoes, leafy vegetables, and whole grains.
Vitamin K is necessary for normal blood clotting, and it helps maintain liver function. It also aids in the absorption of food in the intestines. It is found in green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, soybeans, fortified milk, yogurt, egg yolks, and sunflower oil. Vitamin B-complex group is necessary for healthy nervous system, skin, appetite, and digestion. It is found in poultry, liver, dairy products, eggs, oatmeal, rice, nuts, seeds, whole-grain breads, cereals, and vegetables. Vitamin C is necessary for healthy cells in all parts of the body. It is found in citrus fruits, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, and baked potatoes.
Common symptoms of vitamin deficiency are muscle cramps, nerve irritability, fragile bones, exhaustion, depression, poor appetite, constipation, skin disorders, and insomnia. If the older person's diet is found to be adequate, the person does not need vitamin supplements. Once a deficiency is found, however, it is very difficult to correct. Calcium, iron, and sodium chloride are minerals that are vital to the older adult but may be poorly absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract.
Calcium is needed for muscles to contract and relax as well as maintain bone strength. It also helps the blood to clot. It is important to have adequate amounts of calcium because the body will take the needed calcium from bones when it is lacking. Iron is found in all tissue cells of the body. It is stored in the liver and used to make hemoglobin. When an older person has an iron deficiency, it is usually caused by a disease. A diet that includes leafy vegetables, flour, eggs, whole grains, and meat will adequately supply the needed iron. Sodium chloride is needed for the transmission of nerve impulses, the relaxation of muscles, and to maintain the balance between body fluids and cells. The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is about a teaspoon of salt each day. Needless to say, the problem with sodium chloride is that of taking in excessive amounts. Studies have shown that hypertension and abnormal fluid retention are associated with high sodium diets. Therefore, it is very important for the person to regulate the amount of sodium intake.
Having a balanced diet is very important for an elderly person. Vitamin and mineral supplements are not necessary unless the diet is found to be inadequate.
Scherer, J. C. Introductory Medical-Surgical Nursing. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1982.
Steinberg, F. U. Care of the Geriatric Patient. 6th ed. St. Louis: C. V. Mosby Co., 1983.

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