A condition affecting anywhere from 5% to 15% of adults, experts from the Mayo Clinic explain that as our age increases so does our risks for vitamin B12 deficiencies. Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin, playing a central role in the formation of red blood cells, cell metabolism, nerve functioning, and bone health. Knowing your risk factors and what symptoms to watch out for can help ensure good health and well-being.
It pays to be alert to symptoms and consider taking a vitamin B-12 supplement
or eating food fortified with vitamin B-12.
Risk Factors for B12 Deficiencies
-Following a strict vegetarian diet, without eating any meats, eggs, or dairy products
-Inadequate nutrition, being malnourished
-Aging, as we get older the body has more difficulty absorbing vitamin B12
-Having digestive diseases, such as pernicious anemia, celiac disease and crohn’s disease
-Having gastric bypass surgery
-Long-term use of certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors (like omeprazole and H-2
blockers) and the diabetes drug metformin
Symptoms of B12 Deficiencies
-Neurological problems such as persistent tingling or prickly sensations in the feet or hands, weakness, numbness, and imbalance
-Mental problems such as confusion, depression, irritability, and forgetfulness
-Dementia (in rare cases)
-Anemia (decreased red blood cell count)
-Lack of white blood cells
-Shortage of platelets
If you think you may be at a higher risk for B12 deficiencies or think you might be experiencing symptoms of a B12 deficiency, experts from the Mayo Clinic recommend consulting your healthcare provider for proper testing, diagnosing, and treatment.
Testing for B12 deficiencies usually includes a blood test, checking for anemia, and in some cases further testing might be performed to look for any underlying conditions that may be causing the deficiency. Treatments to reverse B12 deficiencies often include treating underlying conditions, high-dose injections of B12, high-dose oral B12 supplements, and dietary changes. Often once B12 levels have been corrected healthcare professionals will recommend that the individual continue taking oral B12 supplements daily to help maintain healthy B12 levels.
“Vitamin B-12 is one of the few vitamins Mayo Clinic experts routinely recommend for older adults” (Hensrud, 2014).
Dr. Donald Hensrud (M.D., Preventive Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.) explains that for some people following a healthy diet plan and consuming the recommended 2.4 micrograms (mcg) daily intake of B12 isn’t sufficient for maintaining balanced B12 levels since the body may not be able to absorb the B12. Since B12 isn’t toxic and has no risks for overdosing, there’s no harm from adding a B12 supplement to your daily regimen.