Low B-12 in seniors common and risky

It is estimated that up to 15% of those over age 60 have varying degrees of B-12 deficiency. The longer their deficiency goes undetected, the longer their brains and nervous systems will undergo progressive deterioration, culminating in a greater risk for the Alzheimer’s-like dementia as well as paralysis. Emerging evidence also points to B-12 deficiency as an increasingly common reason behind high levels of homocysteine in the blood — a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Common symptoms for the deficiency are fatigue from anemia, mental confusion and sensory and movement difficulties.

The key to preventing B-12 deficiency is a balanced diet, particularly among the elderly. But some individuals, despite following a nutritious diet plan, may not be able to absorb a food’s vitamins due to problems such as a diseased stomach. Therefore, annual screening is recommended. If a deficiency is found, patients may opt for monthly injections or highly absorbable daily B-12 supplements, such as sublingual tablets or methylcobalamin (“methyl B-12”).

Source: American Association for Clinical Chemistry, July 18, 2003