Getting enough vitamin D through sunlight, diet or supplements can help prevent falls, fractures and high blood pressure.
What is Vitamin D?
Essential for strong bones, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to sunlight. It helps the body absorb calcium, which is critical to bone strength and health.
Without vitamin D, our bodies may lose bone tissue, leading to bone pain, muscle weakness and possible skeletal deformity. We also need vitamin D to:
- Help our muscles move
- Regulate cell growth
- Carry messages through the nervous system
- Fight infection
Vitamin D deficiency is common among seniors for several reasons:
- Decreased dietary intake of vitamin D
- Less exposure to sunlight
- Reduced skin thickness
- Impaired intestinal absorption
Seniors aged 65+ with vitamin D deficiency are nearly twice as likely to have a physical limitation compared to seniors with the higher vitamin D levels.
Why seniors need Vitamin D
Vitamin D can be integral in preventing a number of serious health problems, including:
- Prevent falls and fractures.
- Lower risks for osteoporosis and other bone disorders.
- Maintain their physical mobility and independence.
- Decrease risks for cardiovascular problems, diabetes and some cancers.
- Lower chances of early nursing home admission.
How to get it
Sun exposure, supplements and certain fortified foods are the main sources of vitamin D. Because of the link between sun exposure and skin cancer, it is recommended that adults rely on food and supplements to get the right amount of vitamin D each day.
A blood test can tell whether you are getting the right amount of vitamin D. Bear in mind that too much vitamin D can have serious health effects.
Seniors should talk to their doctor before taking supplements to determine if they are necessary and to rule out any potential interactions with prescription medications.