5 Ways To Fight Vitamin D Deficiency In The Elderly
Vitamin D has been put in the spotlight these days due to its unique role in our health and wellbeing. A lack of its recommended dosage in the body is commonly tied to the loss of bone density. But as medical technology progresses, new discoveries cast more light on what this vitamin can do our body especially in the elderly.
Vitamin D is very important to your health. Nutrition experts say this vitamin is crucial in maintaining overall health. It aids in managing the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body. It also helps in maintaining the function of our immune system to battle infections such as flu.
Studies have also discovered more functions of vitamin D in our body, including:
- Muscle function
- Cardiovascular function resulting to heart and blood circulation problems
- Respiratory system, causing issues in the lungs and airways
- Brain development
- Anti-cancer properties
Vitamin D is distinct because of how it is produced. Our body produces this vitamin when the ultraviolet rays of sunlight hit our skin. We can also get the “sunshine vitamin” from a few foods such as salmon and tuna. Nowadays, pharmaceutical companies also make vitamin D supplements to address the growing and alarming rise of vitamin D deficiency.
Experts believe there is a growing “sunshine vitamin” deficiency in the United States. A study in 2009 found out that vitamin D levels in the U.S. population had decreased between the years of 1988 and 1994, and again between 2001 and 2004.
A 2011 survey found out that two-thirds of Americans are getting sufficient vitamin D. It also showed that 24% of the U.S. populace are at risk for vitamin D deficiency.
There is added risk for vitamin D deficiency in the elderly. Due to the lower dietary intake of vitamin D rich foods and sunlight exposure, thinning of the skin, problems in absorbing nutrients in the intestine, and decreased efficiency of organ functioning.
The most notable symptom of vitamin D deficiency in the elderly is include softening of the bones, bone pain, more susceptibility to fractures due to falling, and weakness of muscles.
Lack of vitamin D is also found to be linked with the loss of brain functioning. A recent study revealed that the elderly has a high chance of cognitive decline and memory loss connected to Alzheimer’s disease if they have low vitamin D.
Another study reported that the elderly with the lowest levels of vitamin D have an 11-fold increase in susceptibility to get depressed than those who got healthy doses.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency
- You are dark-skinned – the more pigment you have, the harder it is for the sun’s UV rays to penetrate into your skin.
- You’re 50 or older – aging puts a toll on the efficient functioning of your organs, including those producing vitamin D.
- You feel depressed – The brain hormone responsible for positive mood—serotonin—surges when you have more exposure to sunlight and drops if you receive less.
- You’re obese – Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, hormone-like vitamin that is collected by body fat. Hence, if you’re overweight or obese, you probably need more vitamin D than a slimmer person.
- Your bones ache – The sunshine vitamin is linked with the healthy development of bones and muscles. Lack of it may lead to bone or muscle aches.
- Your head sweats – one of the classic signs of vitamin D deficiency is a sweaty head.
- You have intestinal problems – If you have gastrointestinal issues that impair your ability to absorb fat, your body may have difficulty absorbing vitamin D and other fat-soluble vitamins.
Fill in the deficiency
Your lifestyle and present health condition could lead to vitamin D deficiency:
Get more sunlight. Sun exposure has been minimized due to the fear of having skin cancer and premature skin aging because of the harmful effects of UV rays. But shunning sunlight can also deprive you of vitamin D. The sun emits UV rays at harmful levels from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Try to get sunlight outside these hours.
If you’re dark-skinned, you need more sunlight exposure. The more melanin you have in your skin, the more exposure you need as melanin cuts down the skin’s capability to produce more vitamin D from sunlight.
If you live in the northern states, consider taking in vitamin D supplements. If you reside north of the 37th parallel, your risk of vitamin D deficiency is more likely due to the angle of the sunlight during winter. Two studies discovered that lack of vitamin D in the blood of people in the northern parts of the U.S. and Canada is common. The researchers in those two papers recommended to people living in the northern latitudes to take vitamin D supplementation in winter months.
Eat foods rich in vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin is usually found in animal meat such as fatty fish and fish liver oils. Only a trace of vitamin D can be found in beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese. Eat lots of them to fill in your lack of vitamin D.
If you’re taking a vegan diet, you might have a problem in taking in vitamin C from foods. While you may consume fortified foods that contain tiny amounts of vitamin D, these may not be enough to meet its daily recommended intake. Supplementation could be a good solution for this.
Fight obesity. Many studies have attributed vitamin D deficiency with obesity. A study concluded that lack of vitamin D in the blood is “highly prevalent” in obese patients, while another found that obese people have less vitamin D bioavailability. To combat obesity try to observe mindful eating.
Seek help from your doctor. Certain medical conditions including digestive problems and chronic kidney disease may make vitamin D production difficult. Hormone doctors may suggest hormone replacement therapy for women especially for the elderly.
Vitamin D helps maintain healthy aging. Make sure that you have enough sunlight exposure and foods with vitamin D to make you bloom even in your advanced age.