Vitamin B12 for Healthy Aging

A-HA Team Lead

Keller, H (Principal Investigator)

Partners

Heckman, G (Co-Principal Investigator)
Pfisterer, K (MSc Student)

Project Date

2012 – Present

Approximately 1 in 4 older adults have vitamin B12 deficiency and even more are at risk for developing low or deficient levels. However, the symptoms are hard to detect (e.g., fatigue, general malaise, depression, and confusion) making it hard to diagnose without a blood test. If left untreated, low B12 levels over time can increase the risk of cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, developing anemia, and losing sensation in the hands and feet. This highlights the importance of screening for B12 deficiency, particularly for those at high risk, to ensure that it is treated before any permanent damage occurs.

Currently, there are no best practice guidelines for vitamin B12 screening in Ontario LTC homes, so not much is known about current practices. It is also unknown if and how the more subtle symptoms and signs of B12 deficiency affect quality of life. For this project, Directors of Care across Ontario long-term care homes are being interviewed to better understand when B12 screening occurs and what types of treatments are used. The second phase of the project will investigate the prevalence of low B12 on admission to LTC and the efficacy of a standardized protocol for improving B12 levels. Factors associated with deficiency will also be explored. By better understanding the link between B12 levels and healthy aging, awareness can be raised about the importance of this vitamin and the opportunities to improve quality of life through adequate testing and supplementation.

 

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