Vitality & Vitamins: Is Your Senior’s B12 Level Getting Them Down?

Your senior loved one feeling a bit sluggish lately?

Does he or she feel tired and weak?

Do they say “no thanks” when you ask them to get up and do something with you like take a walk or even take a shower?

Are they complaining about other aches and pains or looking a bit paler than usual?

You may attribute that simply to growing older, but it could be something more. They may need to have their blood work checked at the doctor and see if their B12 level is normal.

A B12 deficiency usually occurs over time but can come on suddenly in some people. A blood test is required to determine if your senior is deficient and could benefit from a treatment plan.

Symptoms of B12 Deficiency

These are symptoms that may indicate a B12 deficiency. Many, of course, are also associated with other causes.

  • Numbness
  • Pins and needles, tingling in hands, feet and legs
  • Difficulty with walking or with overall balance
  • Joint pain
  • Short of breath
  • Depression
  • Memory loss or cognitive impairment
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of taste and smell, loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Diarrhea or constipation

A new study has shown that older men with lower levels of B12 are at increased risk for bone fractures. Those with the lowest levels of B12 were 70% more likely to suffer a bone fracture especially in the lumbar spine than the other study participants. These men would benefit from smoking cessation and daily physical activity to strengthen bones according to researchers.

It has been shown in other studies that long term use of proton pump inhibiting antacids that suppress the production of gastric acid such as Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium can cause a deficiency in Vitamin B12. After taking an antacid for two years, the risk was 65% greater for a B12 deficiency. The body needs acid from the stomach to extract B12 from the foods we eat.

People who are vegetarian can often suffer from a B12 deficiency because the primary source for B12 is from animal products. Older people are also often at increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency due to malabsorption or even malnutrition. In aging seniors, the gastric lining can thin, gastric acid reduced and dietary sources of animal products are inadequate leading to a deficiency.

Increasing B12 Levels Naturally

Since vitamin B12 is not made by our body but is actually taken in from the food or supplements that we eat, being sure we are eating a variety of foods is important. These are some foods we should include to get adequate amounts of B12 every day.

  1. Eggs
  2. Poultry
  3. Meats
  4. Fish and seafood
  5. Milk and Milk products
  6. Cheese
  7. Fortified foods including grains and breakfast cereals
  8. Multivitamin supplements

Your senior’s doctor may also prescribe B12 injections to quickly improve blood levels of the vitamin or high dose B12 pills if a severe deficiency is verified. A mild B12 deficiency can usually be improved with a basic multivitamin, though.

B12 deficiency can be treated once it is identified by your senior’s doctor. If you think this may be a potential concern for your senior, schedule an appointment with the doctor and if needed, get a blood test. Beginning a treatment plan will help your senior feel better and continue to enjoy every day!