Vitamin D deficiency is an incredibly common problem for most Americans, especially in the senior population. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to childhood wellness issues, with the lack of Vitamin D leading to the debilitating childhood disease of rickets. In the 1930’s, the practice of fortifying food, namely milk, dropped the 80-90% bone deformity rate to nearly nothing.
Today, it is the American senior population who is suffering the ill effects of Vitamin D deficiency. There are many factors that contribute to senior Vitamin D deficiency:
- Less time outdoors and less exposure to sunlight
- A thinning of the skin - preventing the absorption of sunlight, which the body would normally convert to Vitamin D.
- Less intake of Vitamin D rich foods
- Decreased intestinal absorption of Vitamin D
- Inefficient Vitamin D conversion in the liver and kidneys
Risks of Vitamin D Deficiencies for Seniors
- Decreased muscle mass, leading to an increased risk of accidents and falls.
- Decreased absorption of calcium, leading to weakened bones, osteoporosis, and a greater risk of fractures and breaks.
- An inability to fight off a variety of diseases
- Nerve function impairment
- Increased risk of heart disease and cancer
- Causes general poor health, fatigue, muscle/joint pain, high blood pressure, and chronic pain.
Tips for Preventing Vitamin D Deficiency
With winter here, and with less sun exposure to help you naturally produce Vitamin D, you need to find a more reliable way to get your daily-required dose of Vitamin D.
The negative effects of a Vitamin D deficiency (especially for seniors) can be severe, so it is worth every effort to obtain the proper intake of vitamin D. Because very few foods naturally contain Vitamin D, it is important to carefully monitor your Vitamin D intake and discover reliable sources for this powerful vitamin.
In general, 30 minutes of exposure to sunlight, twice a week, in enough to produce the appropriate amount of Vitamin D needed. However, this needs to be without sunscreen, and will not be sufficient if you are sitting inside and getting light through a glass window. Many seniors have difficulty getting the Vitamin D they need through this method.
With winter keeping most of us away from the sunshine, it’s important to eat foods that are fortified with Vitamin D:
- Breakfast Cereal
- Soy Products
- Some juices
- Dairy products – especially milk, but also cheese, yogurt, and butter
You should also eat foods that are naturally rich in Vitamin D:
- Cod Liver Oil
- Fish – like salmon, herring, mackerel, and tuna
We also highly suggest that all seniors take a daily Vitamin D supplement.
Muscle loss and decreased bone density are simply a part of the aging process. However, with a proper in take of Vitamin D, you can slow this deterioration and increase your overall health. A health diet, daily activity, and proper supplementation is the key to keeping your body healthy and strong.