Vitamin D is critical to the health and well-being of seniors. Despite the universal need for Vitamin D, older populations worldwide experience Vitamin D deficiency in high numbers. Without an adequate daily intake of Vitamin D, several known geriatric syndromes can manifest.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods. Some foods are fortified with Vitamin D, and the vitamin is also available as a supplement. Exposure to sunlight also triggers Vitamin D synthesis. When Vitamin D is received, it is activated first in the liver and then in the kidneys.
Seniors need Vitamin D to promote calcium absorption in their bodies. Without this essential vitamin, bones can become brittle, thin or misshapen. When taken with calcium, Vitamin D helps to protect the elderly from osteoporosis. Vitamin D also modulates immune function and reduces inflammation.
How much Vitamin D is necessary?
The National Institutes of Health lists a recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin D. Males and females aged 51-70 require 600 IU (15 mcg) per day of Vitamin D. Men and women over age 70 are advised to take 800 IU (20 mcg) of Vitamin D daily.
Seniors may be able to determine whether or not they are consuming the right amount of Vitamin D by getting a blood test. Older adults should be warned that ingesting an excessive dose of Vitamin D can lead to serious health consequences.
What are the health benefits of Vitamin D?
Aging adults who consume the daily recommended dose of Vitamin D benefit in several ways. Seniors maintain skeletal health and reduce their risk of bone fractures. The vitamin decreases the likelihood of bone disorders, osteoporosis, certain cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular issues in seniors.
An adequate intake of Vitamin D plays a substantial role in seniors’ cognitive performance. Since Vitamin D receptors are associated with parts of the brain that influence mood, a lack of Vitamin D may lead to an increased risk of cognitive decline and depressive symptoms.
What are issues caused by Vitamin D deficiency?
In people over age 65, low levels of Vitamin D increase the risk of developing cognitive impairment by as much as four times in comparison to seniors with higher levels. Studies show that low Vitamin D levels have no effect on memory, but affect executive functions, like focusing attention.
Depression is also exacerbated in seniors with low levels of Vitamin D. Severe Vitamin D deficiency can lead to more frequent bouts of depression. In contrast, women who consume diets rich in Vitamin D lower their risk of developing depression by 20 percent.
Low Vitamin D intake contributes to the development of diseases most common to aging, such as osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Studies are underway to examine how sufficient Vitamin D levels can ward off these age-related diseases.
Osteoporosis occurs when the aging body fails to receive adequate Vitamin D. Low Vitamin D levels contribute to an increased risk for falls, fractures, poor physical balance and muscular weakness. Hip fractures are reduced by 20 percent in seniors who take 400 IU of Vitamin D supplements daily.
Immune functions naturally deteriorate as people age. The body’s immune system fights cancers, bacteria, fungus, parasites and viruses. Vitamin D has been shown to regulate seniors’ immune responses, allowing their bodies to continue their defense mechanisms and kill infectious organisms.
Seniors may reduce their risk of developing specific cancers, like breast, colon and prostate, when they consume higher levels of Vitamin D. Inadequate intakes of Vitamin D fail to reduce the risk of seniors developing cancer. Studies continue to be underway regarding Vitamin D and cancer.
How do seniors get enough Vitamin D?
Seniors may receive Vitamin D through fortified foods, sun exposure or supplements. Selected foods containing Vitamin D include salmon, sardines, trout, fortified cereals, soy milk and eggs. Although the vitamin is infrequently found in natural foods, fatty fish are the best sources of Vitamin D.
Approximately 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week is adequate to receive healthy levels of Vitamin D. Sun exposure should ideally occur between 10 AM and 3 PM and without sunscreen. Seniors should be cautious to limit exposure to sunlight to prevent the development of skin cancers.
Vitamin D supplements also provide seniors with the daily recommended dose. A supplement containing 1000 IU per day is advised. Seniors who already take a multivitamin should check to see how much Vitamin D is included, as the vitamin may provide the recommended dose of 1000 IU.
Family members may not always be at home to ensure a senior loved one is receiving the recommended daily doses of Vitamin D. Staying healthy, however, may be accomplished with the daily in-home support from professional caregivers at Assisting Hands Home Care.
Our skilled caregivers prepare nutrient-rich meals to ensure our senior care recipients receive the vitamins, including Vitamin D, and minerals to stay healthy each day. If your loved one takes Vitamin D supplements, we’ll provide medication reminders so they take the recommended amount.
When your loved one prefers a few minutes in the sun, we’ll accompany her so she gets enough sunlight to synthesize Vitamin D. Assisting Hands Home Care provides additional forms of non-medical home care, including memory care, respite care and support with the activities of daily living.
Families with aging loved ones living in Plainfield, Bolingbrook, Yorkville and the surrounding communities of Will and Kendall counties are encouraged to call Assisting Hands Home Care at (815) 201-5445 for our compassionate, reliable and skilled in-home elder care. We provide a complimentary in-home assessment to get started.