Learn Here Why Many Seniors Are Not Getting Enough Folic Acid And How It Affects Their Wellbeing
Vitamin deficiencies are common in individuals of all ages. The causes depend on factors such as overall health, diet, and household income. Pegasus senior care specialists in Pacoima and elsewhere explain why many seniors are not getting enough folic acid.
Folate is another name for Vitamin B9. Individuals of all ages need folate, which is found naturally in a variety of foods. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate.
Leafy green vegetables are the primary source of folate. Those include spinach, lettuce, and broccoli. Peas, dried beans, and nuts are also rich in folate. Citrus, bananas, melons, and strawberries are easy ways to increase your folate intake.
Folate Is An Essential Nutrient
Your body uses folate to make DNA, and it’s essential for cell growth, among other functions. Babies born to women who don’t consume adequate folate may have serious birth defects. For that reason, folic acid is added to many food products and supplements.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that’s produced by your body. Too much homocysteine circulating in your bloodstream can damage your arteries. It potentially leads to heart disease.
High levels of homocysteine can also cause clots to form. Blood clots put you at risk for a pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke. Folate and folic acid help reduce excess homocysteine.
Common symptoms of folate or folic acid deficiency include:
- Abdominal pain, nausea, other digestive disorders
- Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
- Tingling, burning, numbness
- Weight loss
As these are also symptoms of other medical conditions, consult your physician before adding folic acid supplements to your diet. Some individuals can absorb folic acid more efficiently than folate.
Some studies indicate a connection between folate deficiency and:
- Age-related hearing loss
- Age-related macular degeneration
Keep in mind that the research, in many instances, is inconclusive. There is generally no proof that folic acid supplements will prevent any of these conditions. Some conditions show improvements if folate or folic acid is added to the diet.
Folate Deficiency In Seniors Has Several Causes
Testing may show folate or folic acid deficiency despite eating nutrient-rich food. That could be due to malabsorption. Malabsorption means nutrients pass through your digestive system without being utilized.
Seniors often have many of the causes of malabsorption. These can include:
- Damaged intestines such as that from infections or surgery
- Radiation therapy
- Underlying medical conditions, such as celiac disease
Certain medications can also lead to temporary or permanent malabsorption. Obesity or being underweight interferes with absorption. Medications that interact with folate and folic acid include anticonvulsants and barbiturates.
Older individuals tend to eat less, leading to deficiencies in vitamins, including folate and folic acid. Your appetite often decreases as you age. Many seniors are less active, which is another reason to eat less.
Some medical conditions demand extra energy from your body. At the same time, they cause a decrease in appetite, so that you incur nutritional deficiencies. You may need folic acid supplements if you have cancer, COPD, infection, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption reduce your body’s ability to absorb folate and folic acid. Some individuals have a genetic abnormality that keeps them from digesting and utilizing folate. Individuals who live alone may have poor dietary habits that lead to folate or folic acid deficiencies.
Folic Acid Prevents Folate Deficiency
The recommended amount of folate for mature adults is 400 mcg daily. You may be unable to eat enough to meet that recommendation. Or you may dislike many of the foods that contain folate.
The B vitamins, including folate, are water-soluble. Care must be taken in food preparation to avoid destroying the nutrients.
You can prevent a potential folate deficiency with folic acid. Products such as bread and cereals are usually “fortified” with vitamins. If you’re not consuming food with folate or folic acid, you may need to rely on supplements.
Consume Folic Acid Supplements Cautiously
Although it may seem logical to take a folic acid supplement “just in case,” that’s not always advisable. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient, especially for cognitive function. As your body can’t make B12, the only source is in the food you eat.
As with other nutrients, disease, lifestyle habits, and medications can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb B12. Taking folic acid supplements can hide a Vitamin B12 deficiency.
An undiagnosed B12 deficiency leads to further loss of cognitive ability. Individuals may also experience anemia due to abnormal red blood cells. Their spinal cord may begin deteriorating.
Experts warn against taking folic acid supplements, especially in amounts exceeding 1000 mcg daily. It’s important to undergo testing first to determine if other deficiencies exist. Take the supplements in the amounts recommended by your healthcare provider.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Pegasus senior care services in Pacoima and our other locations include meal planning and preparation. Our professionals are dedicated to helping you and your loved ones stay healthy.