Do Seniors Need More Vitamin D?

 Do Seniors Need More Vitamin D

Also known as the Sunshine Vitamin, vitamin D is one of those things you don’t really think about until you don’t have enough of it. A lack of vitamin D is strongly linked to a variety of serious issues, including depression, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, and even cancer. On a day-to-day basis, lack of vitamin D can do everything from negatively affect your eyesight to making you so tired you want to sleep all day.

Vitamin D deficiency is very common among Americans, and you might have it for a long time before testing confirms it. That’s yet another good reason to have an emergency response solution on hand at all times. A medical alert pendant or watch can be a lifesaving option if you begin to feel faint, weak, or fatigued. If you suffer from some of the problems associated with low vitamin D levels, you can use a medical alert to get help fast.

As we get older, the risk for a vitamin D deficiency goes up – so much so that depending upon the scale scientists choose to use, up to 100% of all seniors have a vitamin D deficiency.1 In many cases, supplements are the only way to bring the numbers up to where they should be.

The good news is that supplements are inexpensive, easy to obtain, and very safe. Vitamin D supplementation works well for most seniors… most of the time.

Just How Serious is Vitamin D Deficiency for Seniors?

Vitamin D is a wonder nutrient that plays a strong role in your good health. When your vitamin D levels start to decline, you might notice a wide variety of issues, including:

·        Depression. Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with depression. Recent studies show that one in every five seniors with depression also has a vitamin D deficiency, and those who are older, frail, and have more frequent depression tend to have a severe deficiency.2

·        Osteoporosis. According to the Journal of Aging and Gerontology, over 10 million adults over the age of 50 suffer from osteoporosis and another 34 million have reduced bone mass. Inadequate intake of vitamin D and calcium are significant risk factors that make fractures as a result of osteoporosis much more likely.3

·        Cardiovascular disease. Hypertension, heart attack, stroke, and other problems resulting from cardiovascular disease all seem to have a connection to a lack of vitamin D.

·        Type 2 diabetes. Regulation of vitamin D in the body seems to have some effect on an elderly person’s risk of developing high blood sugar, though how vitamin D works in conjunction with hormones and other factors isn’t quite understood.

·        Cognitive decline. Studies have found connections between low vitamin D levels in seniors and the incidence of cognitive decline. This holds true whether it’s mild cognitive impairment or the advanced stages of dementia.4

In addition to these issues, vitamin D insufficiency is also linked to inflammation, a lowered immune response, decreased muscle function, and reduced absorption of antioxidants.

To avoid a higher risk of these problems, getting enough vitamin D is crucial. According to the Mayo Clinic, anyone up to the age of 70 should get at least 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D, and that should increase to 800 IU for anyone over the age of 70.You might need more than that, especially if you have other health conditions. In most cases, seniors can take up to 4,000 IU without any ill effects.6 Talk to your doctor about getting tested or about the supplements you need.

Higher BMI Can Affect Vitamin D Absorption

Did you know that those who are overweight might not respond as well to vitamin D supplements? A review of a nationwide clinical study on vitamin D and marine omega-3 supplements found that those who have a BMI of 25 or higher might see variations in the way their body uses the supplements. In other words, the heavier you are, the less your body might respond to vitamin D supplements.7

Since there is evidence that insufficient vitamin D might play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease or cancer, the question becomes just how much more serious these conditions might be if your body can’t absorb the supplements as expected.

In addition, you already know that vitamin D is crucial to many processes in the body, and not having enough of it can lead to other serious problems. The longer it takes for vitamin D levels to go up, the greater risk you might have for a fracture as a result of osteoporosis, for instance. If you are dealing with depression, vitamin D supplements that don’t actually bring your levels up can mean you suffer from low mood for even longer.

It can be disheartening to take supplements as directed, but for your blood work to show that they haven’t made as much of an impact in raising the numbers as expected.

Can this be solved with simply prescribing a higher dose of vitamin D to take on a daily basis? For some, perhaps, but not for everyone. Scientists aren’t sure why vitamin D metabolizes differently in those of a higher weight. While a higher dosage is a good theoretical solution, it will take much more research to figure out whether it would work or not.

Right now, the solution is to have regular testing to determine your vitamin D levels, increase the supplement dosage as directed by your doctor, and work on losing weight (lowering your BMI can have a wealth of benefits that go well beyond your body’s ability to use vitamin D).

Other Ways to Get Vitamin D

Remember that vitamin D is known as the Sunshine Vitamin. That’s because your body can actually create vitamin D through absorbing direct sunlight and converting it into something the body can use. However, those who are over the age of 65 tend to have a harder time converting the sunlight to a usable form, and besides that, it’s not a good idea to get too much sun. Going out into the sun with the recommended sunscreen to fight against aging and skin cancer also has the effect of reducing our body’s ability to create vitamin D.

Since it’s hard to get what you need from the sun, there are two other options: food and supplements.

Some foods are naturally rich in vitamin D. These include several different types of fish, such as mackerel, trout, swordfish, salmon, and sardines. Mushrooms, eggs, and beef liver are also good sources of vitamin D. But for most, vitamin D in the diet will come from fortified foods, including milk, cereal, orange juice, and yogurt. Look on the label to make sure that it has been fortified with vitamin D (as an added bonus, many are also fortified with calcium).

Over-the-counter vitamin D supplements are a good option. Your doctor might also prescribe higher dosages that can be obtained through your pharmacy. When looking for supplements, you might be thrilled to find that most of them are small, easy-to-swallow “liquid gel” pills – even for the higher dosages. But if you have trouble swallowing or don’t like that particular method of delivery, there are numerous chewable options on the shelves.

The importance of getting enough vitamin D can’t be overstated, especially when it comes to senior health. Every little bit of protection helps as we get older. For instance, those who suffer from osteoporosis want to do anything they can to keep their bones strong, so that if they do experience a fall while at home or on the go, they might have a better chance of avoiding a serious fracture.

That’s why vitamin D and calcium are a must, and having a medical alert system with fall detection is also a good idea. Though you do all you can to stay strong and avoid a fall, if a fall does occur, the tiny fall sensors in the device can actually detect that you have fallen. Then the panic button automatically reaches out to the monitoring center, without your having to press the button. From there, help will be sent your way, whether it’s a pre-designated friend or family member or emergency services.

While you speak to your doctor about your vitamin D levels and other medical issues you might be facing, take the time to ask them about your fall risk and fall prevention measures you can take at home. Aging in place solutions, including a senior life-saving alert system, can provide the peace of mind you need to live happier, healthier, and more independently.