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Vitamin D Deficiency: A Common Risk Factor for Seniors
Seniors are especially at risk for vitamin D deficiency, as the risk only increases as we get older. As people age, the body has a harder time synthesizing vitamin D from sunlight, and the kidney’s ability to activate vitamin D decreases. Additionally, elderly people who are home bound are less likely to get outdoor exercise and activity, limiting the amount of vitamin D we get from sunshine. Reduced nutritional intake of vitamin D is also a risk factor for older adults. 

The Role of Vitamin D in the Aging Adult

Vitamin D is important in building and maintaining bone strength, and also acts as a hormone to regulate the growth and development of other tissues.
 
Maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin D in the body are particularly important for the older adult population because the role of vitamin D is typically associated with the maintenance of skeletal health, such as the prevention of osteoporosis. Approximately 10 million adults over the age of 50 suffer from osteoporosis and 34 million have reduced bone mass, or osteopenia. Low levels of vitamin D cause reduced calcium absorption in the intestines, leading to increased bone turnover and, subsequently, osteoporosis and osteopenia. It has been shown that there is a positive correlation between low vitamin D levels and increased risk of falls and fractures, muscular weakness, and poor physical functioning and balance. 
 
In addition to poor skeletal health, vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to cognitive decline, depression, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer. 

Prevention of Vitamin D Deficiency.

Vitamin D can be obtained through diet, supplements, and sunlight. For an older adult whose mobility is limited or whose external factors may cause them to be less able to go outside, vitamin D supplementation is the most appropriate treatment option for vitamin D deficiency. Without adequate exposure to sunlight, it is almost impossible to achieve sufficient levels of vitamin D from purely nutritional sources. Supplementation is thus suggested as the most effective way to combat deficiency in the older adult population.
 
If getting vitamin D from sunlight is a viable option, research has suggested that it takes up to 30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week to make a sufficient amount of vitamin D from sunlight.
 
Few foods contain vitamin D naturally. The best foods for increasing your vitamin D consumption include salmon, cod liver oil, mackerel, tuna, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Another option to get vitamin D nutritionally include vitamin D fortified foods. Milk, breakfast cereals, and juice drinks are commonly fortified with vitamin D.
 
Our caregivers at Happier at Home would be pleased to accompany you for a walk or picnic to get sunlight to prevent vitamin D deficiency. We can also give you reminders that it’s time to take your vitamin D supplement or make you a vitamin D-rich meal!
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