Vitamins in Your Thirties and Forties

In Your Thirties …

What’s going on
This is the decade when a lot of us are thinking about fertility: getting pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or worrying that you’ll never have the opportunity to try to get pregnant. Fertility is not the only story here, though. Most thirty-somethings are pushing themselves very hard, with only the occasional thought about how 38 is nearer to 40 than 30. It’s a time when you are trying to progress in your career, with busy days, not enough rest and too many ready-made meals. There is a lot of stress involved and the body’s robbed of micro-nutrients by lifestyle. Unless you’re absolutely clear that you’ll never want children, women’s health expert advocates “using nutrients to preserve fertility – as an insurance policy. We can’t change the quantity of our eggs but we can change the quality.

The vitamins to take now:
Folic acid (vitamin B9) is key here, along with the other B vitamins. They’ll help you cope with overall stress and pre-menstrual tension, too – so even if reproduction’s off the agenda, it’s a good one for combating general thritysomething burnout. Taking 25-50mg of vitamin B5 per day is really important for adrenal function, which regulates your production of the “stress hormones” adrenaline and cortisol. Along with that, you need decent amounts of antioxidants like vitamins C and E, which help to reduce the age-related deterioration in the eggs’ DNA.

West is particularly keen on vitamin D. This is the workhorse of the immune system and some of our research shows us how deficient many women are in it, especially when it comes to pregnant women. The incidence of vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women is unacceptably high, especially during winter and spring. We believe that the routine provision of a daily supplement throughout pregnancy would decrease the number of mothers who are vitamin D-deficient and reduce related risks, such as rickets, to their babies.

On the other hand, pregnancy’s definitely a time to avoid overdosing on vitamin A, which can cause birth defects; this strengthens the argument for a tailored pre-natal multivitamin if you become pregnant. Further research backs this up, too. A study of 400 pregnant London women last year – all of whom had vitamin and mineral deficiencies at the start – found this type of supplement cut the risk of having a baby with low birth weight.

In Your Forties …

What’s going on:
This is the time when it really hits you that your body’s not what it used to be. One obvious reason is the run-up to the menopause. You may well not complete it (the average age of menopause is at the beginning of your fifties) but if your periods stay completely stable you’ll be lucky and you may find yourself hammered syndrome. We usually get more swings before night sweats.

In our youth-focused culture, that can be quite hard to accept; which may also be one reason why, from our mid-forties on, we’re more prone to mental health problems like stress or depression: the incidence is up to around one in four, whereas fewer than 20 years ago it was one in five, which remains the incidence for women in their mid-thirties to mid-forties. Perhaps more surprisingly, it’s also in this decade that women are starting to drink more, and more frequently, than in the previous couple of decades – and that’s particularly women in responsible, professional jobs, too.

The vitamins to take now:
Vitamins obviously aren’t the sole solution to any of these issues, but they may be useful for combating some of the effects. You need B complex, including vitamin B6. As the “stress’ vitamins, they can help reduce the raging PMS, too. Expert also recommends antioxidant vitamins A and E, and especially vitamin C. Vitamin C manufactures collagen, which is also good for your skin, hair and nails. In fact vitamins C is a bit of an all-round star at this sate of life. It’s helpful if you’re having difficult heavy periods, because we need it in order to absorb iron effectively – and you also need it if you’re boozing too much, because alcohol hampers your absorption of this vitamin.

In addition, there’s been considerable work on how micro-nutrients – vitamins and minerals – support the brain: including assisting essential fatty acids to be incorporated into the brain and helping amino acids convert into neurotransmitters. If your levels of these aren’t high enough, the researchers argue, it will contribute to mental health problems. This means B vitamins again – for instance, folic acid appears to reduce our levels of the amino-acid homocysteine, which is associated with depression – and, yet again, the multi-tasking vitamin C, 500mg twice per day is ideal.

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