vitamin d 300 x 200It’s important for people to get enough vitamin D as they age to ward off a number of health problems.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb the calcium it needs to develop bone strength. As a result, a deficiency of vitamin D may lead to arthritis, osteoporosis, hip fractures, diabetes, heart disease and overall poor health in seniors, according to the Age and Ageing journal.

Estimates show that only one-third of Americans get enough vitamin D in their diet.

Experts say people require more of it as they age, with those above 70 needing 600 International Units (IU), compared to 200 IU in people younger than 50. 

Sources of Vitamin D

  1. Sunlight: Exposure to the sun’s rays is the most common source of vitamin D for most people. Sunlight helps convert cholesterol to vitamin D in the human body.
  2. Food: Although not common in food, there are several foods that contain vitamin D, including: salmon, cheese, egg yolks, tuna, cod liver oil, and mackerel.
  3. Fortified foods: A number of foods are fortified with vitamin D, including cereal, milk and juices.
  4. Supplements: A study released in the Archives of Internal Medicine states that senior citizens can reduce the risk of bone fractures with a daily oral supplement of vitamin D.

Risks For The Elderly

Combined with the need for more vitamin D and a reduction in the amount of time many seniors spend outdoors in the sunlight, the risk for health problems due to a vitamin D deficiency is relatively high. Experts recommend getting 30 minutes of exposure to the sun twice each week.

Further, older bodies lose some of their ability to use sunlight to produce vitamin D, which needs to be activated in the kidney before it can be utilized – another function that decreases in seniors.

Things To Know

Caregivers for seniors should keep the following things in mind:

  • Sunlight may not be enough to provide sufficient vitamin D. The northern part of the United States does not provide enough sunlight to produce vitamin D during the winter.
  • To synthesize vitamin D, skin must be uncovered, without sunscreen. Sitting inside next to a window does not help.
  • Risk depends on the person. Women have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, while those with darker complexions do not produce as much of it from the sun as fair-skinned peers.
  • It’s possible to get too much vitamin D. Excessive amounts can lead to heart arrhythmias and mental confusion.