Because of the increased number of diseases in African Americans over age 50, there are a number of critical vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may be contributing to the increased disease and the premature deaths that we see.
As we age, our bodies need more attention, as well as compensation for, in some cases, the many years of neglect. Data shows that the older generation, those over age 50, didn’t exercise as much as the younger generations and currently still fall short with much less activity. The older generation was also much less likely to take vitamin and mineral supplements when they were younger. This means any deficiencies we see have been present for many years.
If You Have High Blood Pressure, You Need More Vitamin D and More
Three out of four Black Americans at age 55 have high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is associated with vitamin D deficiency, magnesium deficiency, and potassium shortages. Untreated high blood pressure leads to heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure leading to dialysis. All of which are HIGHEST among African Americans.
As we age, any vitamin or mineral deficiencies we have become more critical. Because older African Americans tend to live in urban areas, they get much less sun. This effect, coupled with lactose intolerance (not tolerating milk), makes vitamin D deficiency a fact of life. A majority of Black Americans have vitamin D deficiency, and the lack of vitamin D is even more important in African Americans over 50.
Four of five Black Americans have insufficient vitamin D levels and low vitamin D is associated with:
- Heart disease
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Erection problems
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- increased infections including COVID -19 pneumonia
Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with a higher risk for depression and schizophrenia.
African Americans Need More Zinc
Zinc deficiency has been linked to poor immune function (fighting infections), including the increased rate of HIV, COVID-19, the common cold, and more. Older individuals tend to eat diets less fortified with zinc and are more likely to get an infection that results in hospitalization and/or death.
Zinc also improves the health of your skin and is critical in a number of essential bodily processes.
Up All Night Urinating?
For older African American men, zinc deficiency is linked to prostate enlargement and prostate cancer. Many of my Black male patients report getting up multiple times a night in order to urinate. This is most likely related to an enlarged prostate blocking the complete emptying of your urinary bladder. Since you cannot fully empty your bladder, and your body is continuing to make urine, you have to wake up multiple times a night in order to not to feel full. Not having enough zinc has been linked to prostate enlargement and prostate cancer. These prostate problems occur more in Black men.
But don’t go crazy because too much zinc can cause trouble too! You need just the right amount to help and not too much to hurt.
Black Men Should Avoid Calcium
Calcium is an important mineral for strong bones, but for older African American men, it could increase their risk for prostate cancer. Yes, several studies have confirmed this link between calcium and prostate cancer and Black men have the HIGHEST risk for this cancer as well as the highest death rate. Another study from the University of North Texas showed that while Blacks consume less calcium overall than Whites, those that did take added calcium (alone or in a multivitamin) had a four-times increased risk for death from prostate cancer. Does your current multivitamin have any calcium in it? Read the label.
Beware of Interactions with Your Current Medications
Older African Americans are also more likely to take prescribed medications, so being aware of interactions is very important. Anything can react and interact with your prescribed medications, so it is always important to confirm the safety of a supplement with your physician. NEVER stop your medicine in the hope that a supplement is going to be better . . . that is almost never the case. Simply inform your doctor of what you are taking (bring the bottle with you) and confirm that it is safe.
- If you are Black and live in or near the city, you likely have vitamin D deficiency. That deficiency puts you are greater risk for a host of health problems. African Americans need 2000 IU of vitamin D daily just to maintain a normal vitamin D.
- Zinc is an essential mineral and helps a number of health problems and bodily functions. Too many older African Americans don’t get enough zinc in their diet.
- Calcium intake is related to increased prostate cancer, so older Black men should actively avoid calcium supplements as well as regular milk and dairy consumption.
- Never stop a physician-prescribed medication and start a supplement in the hope that it will work better or is safer . . . that is usually not true. Always consult your primary care doctor before making any changes like this!! And if you don’t have a primary care doctor, please find one.