7 Essential Vitamins You Need After Age 40

We all know taking and getting enough vitamins in our diet is beneficial to our health.

“Think of vitamins and nutrients as an army that will fight off age-related ailments. And the best way to build this army is by eating a healthy, well-rounded diet,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, manager of wellness nutrition programs at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.” It is so important to eat healthy, especially as you come into your 40’s. That’s when the rules change course, she says. 

“Your body probably isn’t working the same way at 40-plus as it was at 20,” she says. Your muscle mass begins to decrease, you’ll gain weight, menopause may (or soon will) start, and there’s an increased risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes—which means you need to come up with a good fitness/dietary plan.

The top solution to our needs, is receiving the correct amount of minerals and vitamins, which comes from healthy eating—and sources of food that are a good bet than supplements due to efficient digestion, Kirkpatrick says. Here are key nutrients to look for and ways to find them.

Vitamin B12

When you hit your 40’s (and definitely after turning 50), vitamin B12 should be on your watch. Its imperative that you have an adequate level of it as its essential for blood and brain function, Kirkpatrick says. Even though children and young adults will get the B12 needed from food—it’s contained in animal and meat products including fish, chicken, eggs and dairy—B12 is poorly absorbed as your body ages, which happens around the age of 50, when stomach acid levels decrease. 

Any time between 40 and 50, you should start taking vitamin B12 supplement or multivitamin. Try aiming for 2.4 mg per day (the recommended dietary intake), however, there’s no need in worrying about taking too much, Kirkpatrick states. Because B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, you will urinate what your body doesn’t need. 


A recent analysis of 59 studies measured the role it plays in preventing fractures for men and women older than 50 found that increasing calcium intake—either from foods or supplements—was not likely to significantly reduce the risk of fractures. Other research has linked calcium supplements to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiac death for postmenopausal women.

Even though our bones absorb most of the calcium they need earlier in life (typically before age 30), the nutrient does play a role in maintaining bone health later in life, too, Kirkpatrick says. The nutrient is vital for other basic body functions like muscle contraction, nerve and heart functioning, and other biochemical reactions—and if you’re not getting enough calcium from your diet, the body steals calcium from your bones (and weakens them) leading to bone diseases such as osteoporosis.

The bottom line is that you ultimately need calcium at age 40 and beyond, however, latest findings tell us you don’t need to go overboard, because more calcium does not necessarily mean more benefit and may even be harmful to heart health, she says. Most women can receive calcium they need—1,000 mg a day for women 40 to 50, and 1,200 mg for women older than 50. If they eat a well-rounded diet with calcium-rich foods like dairy, tofu, sardines, broccoli, almonds, and spinach, calcium will be present in the body. 

Vitamin D

Kirkpatrick says, especially after 40, this vitamin helps in protecting against the age-related changes that start. Vitamin D deficiencies are linked to diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and breast and colorectal cancers—all of which are more likely to crop up the older you get. Plus, D is essential for absorption of calcium in the body, she says.
Dietary sources include fish and fortified dairy, grains, and cereals, but generally the D you get from food is poorly absorbed. The sun is the best source of the vitamin, but not everyone lives close enough to the equator to be exposed to the strong rays that will deliver the D you need, Kirkpatrick explains. 

“If you’re living anywhere above Georgia, you’re probably not getting enough vitamin D from the sun,” she says. Plus, you don’t absorb it with sunscreen on—and you definitely don’t want to be hanging out in the sun without sunscreen (despite any vitamin D benefits). She recommends a D3 supplement (D3 being the type of vitamin D closest to what you would get from the sun). You should take in at least 600 IU per day (and 800 IU per day after 50), according to the current National Institutes of Health recommendations. The tolerable upper limit (i.e., the amount that will not cause harm) is as much as 4,000 IU per day. If you’re too low in D, it can cause many health problems later on. 


A key function of magnesium is to help regulate blood pressure, which is especially important for women 40-plus, who are already at risk of high blood pressure due to normal aging. Deficiencies in magnesium have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation, Kirkpatrick adds. Plus, it helps the body absorb calcium and plays a role in muscle, nerve, and heart function, as well as blood glucose control.

Your doctor can test your magnesium levels if you think you are deficient in it (and would need a supplement). If you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, you will get the right amount of magnesium you need (320 mg a day for women 40 and up) from food, Kirkpatrick says—it’s found in dark leafy greens, beans, soy, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Too much magnesium does not necessarily pose health risks, but may cause diarrhea, nausea, or cramping.


Potassium plays a key role in keeping blood pressure in check, no matter your age, Kirkpatrick says. In postmenopausal women, research has linked higher intake of potassium from food to a lowered risk of stroke—though “high” intake was considered approximately 3.1 g, which is still lower than the recommended 4.7 g per day. And the benefits were seen in those getting as little as 2 g per day, says study author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, PhD, a professor in the department of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Potassium is a nutrient you highly need, but unless your MD prescribes it for another medical condition, Kirkpatrick cautions against taking potassium supplements. Too much potassium can damage the gastrointestinal tract and the heart, and can cause potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. People get potassium by eating a healthy diet that includes bananas, sweet potatoes, chard, beans, and lentils. You’re highly unlikely to get enough potassium in your diet to be dangerous, Kirkpatrick says. If your doctor prescribes you supplements, they should carefully monitor how they affect your body, she says.


Technically not a vitamin, omega-3 fatty acids still deserve a place on this list because of their various health benefits, Kirkpatrick says—and especially because they help counteract negative changes that come side by side with aging, like increased heart disease risk and cognitive decline. Research has proven that omega-3s help in lowering blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, reduce risk of heart disease, and plays a role in keeping memory and thinking sharp.

In fact, a recent study found that people with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had larger brains and performed better on memory tests, planning activities, and abstract thinking, compared with individuals with lower levels—which suggests that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in maintaining brain health in addition to the other known benefits, says the study’s lead author, Zaldy S. Tan, MD, MPH, medical director of the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program at UCLA. 

You can find omega-3s from foods like fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and leafy vegetables, taking a supplement is a good way to make sure you’re getting enough, Kirkpatrick says. Either way, aim for 500 mg if you’re healthy, 800 to 1,000 mg if you have heart disease, and 2,000 to 4,000 mg if you have high triglyceride levels. And be sure to ask your doctor about the right dose if you’re taking anticoagulant drugs, which can have serious side effects


Probiotics are not technically vitamins or minerals either, but they’re important essentials for women 40 and up, Kirkpatrick says. Mounting evidence suggests probiotics play a role in keeping the gut healthy and weight down, and even in lowering the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke—all of which is especially important around 40 when muscle mass starts to deteriorate, making it possible for weight gain and resistance of insulin.

You can get probiotics in some dairy and fermented soy products like seitan, foods typically will not contain as many strains as a supplement—and each strain comes with its own benefit, some for helping to control weight, others for prevention of diarrhea. Plus, probiotics are live and active cultures, so you won’t be able to get them from heated or cooked foods.

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