The Top Essential Minerals for Seniors
Humans need the life-sustaining elements—minerals, water and oxygen. Our bodies require constant replenishment of these. If you limit your intake of any one of these over a period of time, you may develop many health issues. It's easy to get the water and oxygen we need. It's harder to get the variety of minerals we need to maintain optimal health.
Unlike some nutrients, the human body cannot manufacture its own minerals, so it depends completely upon outside sources for its supply. There are 92 minerals and—of these—16 are considered essential to human health. However, scientists have found more than 80 different minerals in the human system. Minerals comprise only four percent of your total body weight, but they are involved in more than 90 percent of all bodily functions. Roles include supplying raw materials for building strong bones and connective tissue.
Minerals are classified into two groups: macro and micro minerals. Macro minerals (the body needs 100 or more milligrams of per day) include calcium and magnesium, and are building blocks of cells, tissues, and organs. Micro minerals are those required in amounts less than 100 milligrams per day. Also known as trace minerals, micro minerals act primarily as catalysts (agents that assist a wide range of biological functions). In other words, macro minerals are those nutrients the human body needs in relatively large amounts. Micro minerals are those needed in smaller quantities. Both groups work together to promote mental and physical health throughout the body.
Let's look at some of the most important minerals for seniors:
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body, making up about 2% of our body weight. This is about 2 3/4 pounds a 140 pounds person, of which 99% is in the bones and teeth.
Calcium is needed to maximize your bone mass and is required for metabolism. You use calcium for many of your body's vital functions and if you don't give it enough calcium for these other purposes, your body will take it from your teeth and bones. First it takes calcium from the jaw bone, which may explain the prevalence of periodontal disease among older women.
Our bones replace about a fifth of their calcium every year, and your bones constantly move calcium in and out of your bones both to repair them and to maintain a consistent level of calcium in the blood and other body fluids. To meet these basic needs, bone experts claim adult women should consume 1200 to 1500 mg (milligrams) of calcium per day. Studies have shown that the average adult female consumes only a third of the calcium needed to maintain normal bone strength.
As you get older, you begin to lose bone mass. For women, the years after menopause show a high rate of bone loss due to declining levels of estrogen. Calcium supplements can help keep your bones and teeth healthy and strong. Getting the recommended amount of calcium may lower your blood pressure as well, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.Calcium is available in low fat dairy foods. Your best choice is with milk and yogurt.
If calcium intake is not sufficient, a woman could lose 15% of her bone in the first ten years after menopause. This can lead to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis, a debilitating bone disorder, is epidemic among American women over the age of 60 and is caused by insufficient calcium. After menopause, the average American woman loses an inch and a half of her height each decade due to vertebral collapse. Also, many fractures occur annually because of osteoporosis.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. About half of your body's magnesium is found in the bones. The other half is found mainly inside cells of body tissues and organs. Only about 1% of your magnesium is in your blood, but your body works hard to keep blood levels of magnesium constant.
Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps your heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.
Green vegetables such as spinach are good sources of magnesium. Some legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole, unrefined grains are also good sources of magnesium. Processed grains are generally lower in magnesium. When white flour is refined and processed, the magnesium-rich germ and bran are removed, so try to stay with breads made from whole grain wheat flour. Tap water can be a source of magnesium, but the amount varies according to the water supply. Water that naturally contains more minerals is described as "hard". "Hard" water contains more magnesium than "soft" water.
Chromium is also very important, although we only need trace amounts. It is known to enhance the action of insulin, a hormone critical to the metabolism and storage of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in the body. Often chromium is destroyed in refined foods, so look for fortified cereals which contain chromium in the nutrient list.
Minerals do much more than help create healthy bones and tendons. As electrolytes, minerals conduct billions of messages in the form of electrical impulses between nerve cells. The nerve cells then tell your muscles what to do. They signal your muscles to move; they make your heart beat, your lungs breathe, and your bowels contract. The brain also runs on this electrical pathway. Without vital minerals, your body would cease to work.
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