11 Mar Seniors & Vitamin D Deficiency
According to studies, over 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D. Even worse–is most of those deficient don’t even know about it. Since the signs and symptoms can be subtle, it can be difficult to tell if you’re low with your levels. Older individuals are at an even greater risk for Vitamin D deficiency.
Importance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a key nutrient to building and maintaining bone strength. It also acts as a hormone that regulates the growth and development of other tissues. In seniors, Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to osteoporosis, muscle weakness, hip fractures, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and poor general health in seniors. Vitamin D is important because it helps regulate the immune system, the neuromuscular system, and is vital for proper nerve function.
As people age, they lose some of their ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight. This means that if your senior loved one spends most of his/her time indoors, chances are he’s not getting enough Vitamin D. Lack of exposure to sunlight increases your risk of Vitamin D deficiency. Those living in northern latitudes (anything above the Colorado border) are at an even greater risk, and so are people who have darker skin, live in big cities where the buildings block the sunlight, live in an area of high pollution, or wear robes/religious clothing covering most of the skin.
With winter in full swing and temperatures more than a little unpleasant for most the country, our lack of exposure to sufficient sunlight can have a significant impact on our health, old or young.
Sources of Vitamin D
Unlike many vitamins and minerals, Vitamin D is not very common in foods. While it can be found in foods like eggs, salmon, tuna, cheese, milk, fortified cereals, etc, many of those foods don’t provide enough Vitamin D, so you can’t rely solely on your food consumption to maintain the necessary levels.
Sunlight is the best source to receiving your daily dose of Vitamin D, but that’s just not reasonable for many people. Fortunately there are many Vitamin D supplements on the market. Consult with your health care provider for recommendations as an older individual’s gender, age, diet, sun exposure and medical history all need to be considered when deciding on vitamin D supplements.
How Caregivers Can Help
If you are a caregiver, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency. You may be wondering at this point what signs or symptoms to look for. Here are some common problems with those deficient:
- Feeling more tired and fatigued than usual
- Getting sick frequently because of a weaker immune system
- Aching bones
- Experiencing back pain
- Feeling depressed
- Slow-healing of cuts and wounds
- Hair falling out
- Feeling muscle weakness
- Experiencing trouble focusing and thinking clearly.
Older individuals with darker skin don’t produce as much vitamin D from sunlight as fairer-skinned people. In addition, certain medications may interfere with Vitamin D supplementation (like steroids, some weight-loss drugs, some cholesterol-lowering drugs and some drugs used to control seizures, etc.). Be sure to take your loved one to a doctor who can best help them manage their Vitamin D levels.