Weighing In: What vitamins should I take?

Patient Expert

Question: I am a 54-year-old women who is concerned with taking the right type of vitamins. What vitamins should I be taking and how much of each should I take?

Answer: Unless you have a severely limited diet, a basic multivitamin should meet most of your nutrient needs. However, most older adults do require additional calcium and vitamin D so if you do not consume dairy foods every day, you may not be getting enough of those vital nutrients.

Calcium is of increased importance as we age because after age 30 our bone mass begins to break down faster than it can be formed. In women, bone loss accelerates after menopause and so we are at an increased risk for fractures as we get older.

In fact, experts predict that by 2020 half of all Americans 50 and older will be at risk for fractures from osteoporosis and low bone mass.

Women age 50 and older should get 1,200 mg of calcium every day. That is equivalent to 3 cups of milk or yogurt. If you aren't consuming enough of these foods than I would recommend taking a calcium supplement.

Vitamin D also plays a major role in bone health. It aids in calcium absorption and bone health because it helps calcium get into the blood stream. It also works in the kidneys to help resorb calcium that would otherwise be excreted.

While vitamin D is manufactured by the skin during direct exposure to sunlight, our ability to do so diminishes with age. It is helpful to take a vitamin D supplement with your calcium. Adults age 50 and older need 800 - 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily. Most multivitamins only have 500 IU of this important nutrient.

I would recommend taking a basic multivitamin along with calcium and vitamin D supplementation.