Your fifties are most likely the decade of the menopause. And, rather like childbirth, it’s impossible to say how each woman’s experience will be. However, even if it goes enviably smoothly, there are inevitable effects on the body that vitamins will help to counter. And with the menopause done and bone-protecting oestrogen leaving us forever, the most notorious risk we face is osteoporosis. One in two women over 50 has an osteoporosis-related fracture and our maximum bone density has been fixed well before the age of 30 so the main task now is to keep it as close to that point as possible, through a mixture of diet and weight-bearing exercise.
Behind that, there are other risks, too – ones you may not have thought about, like heart disease, the most common cause of death. Women have some degree of protection from coronary heart disease up until the menopause, but once our oestrogen levels drop, the risk increases.
Vitamin C still plays a starring role here, collagen gives elasticity internally. You’re trying to stop the body hardening and keep it as flexible as possible, at all levels: cells, insulin receptors and so on. Collagen also makes up 90 percent of the bone matrix so it’s important for bone health and preventing osteoporosis. Flexibility will also have an indirect effect on osteoporosis, because if you’re flexible you are less likely to fall. And, there’s evidence that both vitamins C and E help reduce hot flushes, as well as the – ahem – dryness that can afflict you at this time. The elasticity should also help your urinary tract resist the tendency to stress incontinence too.
You also need vitamin D; and across the population, the older you are the more likely you are to be deficient in it. This isn’t just a problem during the winter when the sunlight isn’t strong enough for our skins to manufacture it naturally. As we get older our skin is less efficient at forming vitamin D, that’s because it’s thinner – and it’s not helped by the fact that many older people don’t’ get out as much as they used to. Studies found that high levels of vitamin D cut the chances of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (another condition where everyone’s risk goes up from 40 onwards) in older people by almost half. The general recommendations are that you ideally need more than 30 micrograms of vitamin D in every liter of your blood. If you are deficient – and a blood test can tell you this – the National Osteoporosis Society recommends supplementing with vitamin D.
How should you take yours?
To make matters even more complicated, there’s a growing trend for having supplements injected or drip fed into your system. Some fans say they get an “incredible boost” from the experience and that it’s more effective than taking oral supplement s- but so far the medical specialists are extremely cautious about any kind of vitamin injections.
If you are determined to give the intravenous route a go, check the practitioner’s qualifications. Don’t’ be tempted by self-injection; scientist describes this as an “extreme and dangerous fad”, especially with the risk of overdosing on non-water-soluble vitamins A and D, which store up in the body if you get too much and can cause serious damage. Most people aren’t going to do this, because they don’t have the time.