Tips for Health

The Importance of Vitamin B-12

By on May 18, 2012 in Health with 0 Comments

What is vitamin B-12?

Vitamin B-12 is an important vitamin found primarily in fish, shellfish, meat and dairy products. Vitamin B-12 helps make red blood cells and DNA, and maintains the proper functioning of your nervous system.

Vegetarians or people who do not eat meat, vegan people, and the elderly are at risk of not getting enough vitamin B-12. Most people with low vitamin B-12 do not eat meat or dairy products or have trouble absorbing vitamin B-12 in the stomach or small intestine.

What can cause problems with absorbing vitamin B-12?

Here are some things that can cause problems with absorbing vitamin B-12:

  • A disease called pernicious anemia can destroy cells in your stomach that help you absorb vitamin B-12.
  • Using medications for heartburn and ulcers for a long time.
  • Having had surgery on the stomach or intestines.

Your doctor will determine why you have low vitamin B-12 by asking questions about your health. A physical exam and taking a blood sample will be necessary.

What happens if my vitamin B-12 is low?

You may not have any symptoms if your level of vitamin B-12 is slightly lower. However, a very low level of vitamin B-12 can cause anemia, depression, dementia or a problem with your nervous system.

Some people with low vitamin B-12 also have high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that is a building block of proteins. If you have both problems, you probably have a greater risk for heart disease and stroke.

Can I just take one multivitamin pill every day to raise a low vitamin B-12?

No. The vitamins that are sold without prescription will not contain enough vitamin B-12 to raise a low level. To get enough vitamin B-12, you need to take special vitamin B-12.

You can also get shots of vitamin B-12. Generally, these injections are administered every day or every other day for about two weeks. After this, an injection is administered monthly. Your doctor can help decide whether pills or shots are right for you.

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