Vitamin B12 is needed to help keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps to make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. The nutrient is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods. Not getting enough vitamin B12 in the diet is one of the primary causes of a B12 deficiency and is more prevalent in vegetarians, vegans or the elderly. Vitamin B12 deficiencies are difficult to spot initially and if left untreated, the condition could become significantly worse.
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Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms can cause damage to the nervous system which affects the way a person’s legs and the way they walk.
Lacking in the vitamin can therefore impede a person’s overall balance and could even make them prone to falling.
Harvard health said: “Vitamin B12 deficiency can be slow to develop, causing symptoms to appear gradually and intensify over time.
“It can also come on relatively quickly. Given the array of symptoms a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause, the condition can be overlooked or confused with something else.
“Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms may include strange sensations, numbness or tingling in the hands, feet or legs, a swollen, inflamed tongue, difficulty thinking and reasoning, weakness, fatigue anaemia or difficulty walking including staggering and balance problems.”
If a vitamin B12 deficiency is left untreated, the damage to the nervous system could cause these changes to the way a person walks and moves.
It may even affect a person’s balance and coordination, making you more prone to falling.
This symptom is often seen in undiagnosed B12 deficiency in the elderly as people over the age of 60 are more prone to a B12 deficiency.
However, preventing or treating deficiencies in this group may improve mobility.
Difficulty waking may also be present in young people who have a severe, untreated deficiency.
When it comes to foods one should eat, a diet rich in beef liver, clams, tuna, trout, fortified cereals, salmon, milk and yoghurt will help to ensure your levels are topped up. For vegetarians or vegans, eating more fortified cereals will ensure you are getting enough vitamin B12.
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Harvard health added: “A serious vitamin B12 deficiency can be corrected two ways: weekly shots of vitamin B12 or daily high-dose B12 pills.
“A mild B12 deficiency can be corrected with a standard multivitamin.
“In many people, a vitamin B12 deficiency can be prevented.
“If you are strict vegetarian or vegan, it’s important to eat breads, cereals or other grains that have been fortified with vitamin B12 or take a daily supplement.
“A standard multivitamin delivers six micrograms, more than enough to cover the average body’s daily need.
“If you are over age 50, the Institute of Medicine recommends that you get extra B12 from a supplement, since you may not be able to absorb enough of the vitamin through foods.
“A standard multivitamin should do the trick.”
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