Vitamin D can be gained through sunlight, diet, or supplements. It helps the body to absorb calcium, which is critical to bone health and strength. Vitamin D is also beneficial in other ways; it boosts our immune system to help fight off infections, it helps to regulate cell growth, aids in muscle movement, and even contributes to carrying messages through the nervous system.
Often people can get a sufficient amount of Vitamin D through regular sunlight exposure on bare skin, but excessive time indoors due to inclement weather or other circumstances can cause a Vitamin D deficiency, which can have a major impact on health. A lack of Vitamin D can cause osteoporosis and a loss of bone tissue, which can lead to bone pain, muscle weakness, and even skeletal deformities, which could then lead to falls and fractures. In addition, Vitamin D deficiency can also increase the risk of autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and even some cancers.
It is important to note, however, that too much Vitamin D is also harmful, so one needs to know how much is optimal for good health. The recommended amount of Vitamin D for those age 19-70 is 15 micrograms per day, while those over 70 should take in 20 micrograms per day. A blood test can determine whether someone is getting the proper amount of Vitamin D and whether dietary or other supplements are required. Since supplements can sometimes interact with prescription medications, it is also important to discuss any medications being taken with a doctor before starting a regimen.
Some foods that contain Vitamin D are salmon, mackerel, cereal and oatmeal, orange juice, and soy or cow milk. Because of the link between sun exposure and skin cancer, many physicians recommend that adults turn to food or supplements to get the proper amount of Vitamin D instead of relying on sunlight.
Vitamin D deficiency is fairly common among seniors due to factors such as decreased dietary intake, reduced skin thickness, impaired intestinal absorption, and less exposure to sunlight. Unfortunately, according to a longitudinal study done in the Netherlands, those age 65-88 who were deficient in Vitamin D were almost twice as likely to have a physical limitation as those who were not.
Therefore, it is important to know whether your senior loved one is getting the proper amount of Vitamin D and what needs to be done to maintain that level.
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