Metabolism Changes in Elderly

Iron : Recommended Intake: Men and Women: 8 milligrams a day

Iron is best known for its role in the formation of healthy red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood. It is also a component of myoglobin, the compound that stores oxygen in muscle tissues.

In many cases, the combination of aging and isolation can lead to poor health habits.  I have witnessed elderly parents whose inability to metabolize food, combined with insufficient dietary needs, causes them to become weakened and anemic.  Your body needs the right amount of iron. If you have too little iron, you may develop iron deficiency anemia.    Causes of low iron levels include blood loss, poor diet, or an inability to absorb enough iron from foods.

Also, too much iron is toxic to your body. Those of us in the sandwich generation frequently witness community seniors who take too many pills.  Taking too many iron supplements can cause iron poisoning. Some people have an inherited disease called hemochromatosis. It causes too much iron to build up in the body.

In general, elderly parents can eat a healthful diet that includes good sources of iron. A healthful diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat free or nonfat milk and milk products, lean meats, fish, dry beans, eggs, nuts, and is low in saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.

Oxygen is essential for life, and without iron to keep those red blood cells coming, you would die. But iron also has an important job in bolstering the immune system and helping the body manufacture amino acids and convert beta-carotene to vitamin A. There are two types of iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron is found in meat, while nonheme iron is found in plants. Nonheme iron is less well absorbed, but that can be easily remedied by eating a food rich in vitamin C with a food rich in nonheme iron, since vitamin C aids in its absorption.

While iron remains an essential nutrient, as you age your body needs less of the mineral. That’s especially true of women after menopause. The risk of continuing to bolster your iron intake as you pass 50 is that you could unknowingly be suffering from a condition known as hemochromatosis. Also known as iron overload, hemochromatosis occurs when the body gets saturated with iron and isn’t able to discard the extra amount. Untreated, it has the potential to harm every organ in your body. Symptoms can include chronic fatigue and persistent aches and pains in your joints.