Women not only need different vitamins than men, but the vitamins they need change as they age. Certain vitamins help fight heart disease and some types of cancer, making these nutrients even more important to the body as a woman grows older. Whether or not increasing daily intake of these vitamins has a preventive effect against disease, supplementation may reduce the risk of disease in women who have an inadequate dietary intake of particular vitamins and minerals.
Women need vitamin A for healthy bones. Osteoporosis becomes more of a concern once a woman reaches her middle years. Vitamin A also boosts the immune system and may help reduce the risk of breast cancer. The findings of a study published in a 2000 issue of the “Medical Journal of Australia” suggest that vitamin A supplementation may protect against breast cancer in women who don’t get enough vitamin A in their diets.
Vitamin D plays an essential role in preventing osteoporosis. The body needs vitamin D to help absorb calcium and protect against bone loss. According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, health expert and host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” after a woman turns 40, her chance of developing osteoporosis, heart disease or a thyroid disorder increases significantly. Increasing intake of vitamin D may also decrease the risk of developing colon cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
Studies cited by the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements suggest that vitamin E protects against cardiovascular disease and stroke by blocking the conversion of cholesterol into plaque that can clog the arteries. Vitamin E may also play a role in preventing blood clots, which could lead to a heart attack. Although clinical trials linking vitamin E intake with decreased incidence of cancer have been inconclusive, antioxidants such as vitamin E help protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, which can lead to the development of cancer. Eating a diet high in antioxidants and carotenoids may also help protect against cataracts and other age-related eye disorders. Findings of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, funded by the National Eye Institute, show that vitamin E and other antioxidants hold potential for slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration in people in the early stages of the disease.
Vitamin K is another vitamin that may help prevent heart disease in women as the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke increases with age. The American Heart Association reports that some form of cardiovascular disease is the cause of nearly 37 percent of all female deaths in the United States. In fact, after age 40, more women than men die within a year after having a heart attack. Vitamins K and D together increase the production of a protein that helps clear plaque-forming calcium from the blood. This prevents plaque from forming in the lining of the arterial blood vessels surrounding the heart.
The body needs B vitamins to aid in its metabolic processes. Certain B vitamins, such as B6 and B-12, may also help prevent heart disease later in life. The results of a study published in the April 15, 2010 issue of “Stroke” found that eating a diet high in folate, vitamin B6 and B-12 may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by breaking down homocysteine. Too much homocysteine in the blood can damage the inner lining of arteries causing blood clots to form. Dietary sources of these vitamins include vegetables and fruits, legumes, whole grains, fortified cereals, fish and meats.