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Vitamin D and Why Seniors Need It

Vitamin D is sometimes known as the "sunshine vitamin" and it is a vital nutrient in helping our bodies be healthy and strong. We call it the sunshine vitamin because our bodies can't produce it unless our skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is not found in a lot of foods we consume, thus it can be a challenging nutrient to find.

While Vitamin D is important for people of all ages, a person's ability to create vitamin D from sunlight decreases as we age, making seniors an at-risk group for being deficient in vitamin D. In the winter months when cloud cover and gray skies dominate for weeks (months!) on end, getting the necessary amount of sunlight exposure is difficult. It is not uncommon for people of all ages to be Vitamin D deficient by the end of winter.  They might experience feelings of depression or even season affective disorder associated with lack of vitamin D.

So why do we need it?

Vitamin D is a crucial component of strong bones. It helps the body use calcium which for seniors is an important defense against osteoporosis. Strong bones can help prevent a fracture or broken bone if a fall occurs.

Without enough vitamin D, seniors can also experience cognitive impairment, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a compromised immune system and muscle weakness. Research is showing that vitamin D could be an important component in the prevention and treatment of many different medical conditions, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis and high blood pressure.

Due to the natural progression of aging, our bodies become less able to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight as we get older. Kidney function can also decrease as we age, and this will affect the ability to create vitamin D as the kidneys are needed to activate the vitamin before it can be used by the body.

How do we get it without sunlight?

Researchers have found that an hour of sun exposure each week is needed for our bodies to produce a sufficient amount of vitamin D. However, elderly persons may spend less time outdoors due to illness or a lack of mobility, so the need for vitamin D supplements increases.

Many experts report that the population as a whole isn't getting enough Vitamin D. As we get older, the amount of vitamin D we need to intake increases, and the risk is greater for women and people with darker complexions. If you are obese or overweight, spent a lot of time indoors or always using sunscreen you are also more susceptible to a Vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is not found in a lot of foods, but there are some foods that do provide high levels of naturally-occurring vitamin D:

  • Wild-caught fish (salmon and mackerel)
  • Beef or Calf Liver
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Egg yolks
  • Yogurt, cheese and milk (even almond milk!)
  • Orange Juice
  • Oatmeal

The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency can be subtle, so ensuring that you are receiving enough could mean you or a loved one you care for need to take a supplement. Symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Getting sick often or having lots of infections
  • Fatigue or Tiredness
  • Pain in your bones or bone loss
  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • Inability to heal wounds
  • Muscle Pain

Talk to the nursing staff at your Evergreen Senior Living community if you think a Vitamin D supplement is necessary for your loved one. There are tests your doctor can perform to determine how much vitamin D is in your body to see if you are deficient. Learn more about our communities by visiting our website: www.EvergreenSLC.com.

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Wednesday, 20 March 2019

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