In times past you may have heard about how important vitamin D is for children, but it’s not just for kids anymore. Adults and seniors often have low levels of this critical vitamin. Why is vitamin D so important? What are symptoms of deficiency? Lastly, how can you improve your vitamin D levels?
Why so important?
Vitamin D may help prevent many diseases and conditions including:
- Cognitive impairment
Vitamin D also helps to maintain proper blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, helps to reduce the risk of fractures, and may protect the body from succumbing to auto-immune diseases. Certainly these are all things we want for ourselves and our dear seniors.
Symptoms of Deficiency
Many may have few or no symptoms of deficiency. However, symptoms may include the following:
- Muscle cramps
- Chronic pain
- High blood pressure
- Bladder problems
- Joint pain
- Poor concentration
Of course, these symptoms may result from many other conditions as well. A blood test can easily detect low blood levels of vitamin D. Levels of 20 nanograms per milliliter are often considered normal and adequate for proper health, although some experts believe that number should be closer to 40 or 50 ng/mL. Vitamin D needs to be synthesized in the kidneys, so deficiencies are a greater concern in the elderly since they may not have optimal kidney health.
Seniors also have increased risk of developing vitamin D deficiencies since they often spend very little time outdoors. The body needs sunshine in order to produce easily synthesized vitamin D. Experts often recommend ten minutes a day in the sun, or thirty minutes twice per week. Getting out in the sunshine and fresh air can do wonders for the mind as well as the body. This needs to be direct sunlight however, and without the use of sunscreen. Unfortunately, for those who live in northern climates this might be difficult, especially during the winter month, when getting natural sunlight may be nearly impossible. The good news is that our bodies store vitamin D. This means that during the summer months getting more than adequate amount of sun exposure can help keep your levels up year round.
So, what can you do to ensure that you are getting enough vitamin D during the cold and dark months of the year? Vitamin D supplements are an inexpensive option for getting your levels up. Researchers have recommended between 800-1000 IU per day for optimal prevention of fractures.
Other sources of vitamin D include foods such as mushrooms, fatty fish, liver, egg yolks and cheese. Daily consumption of these foods may also help to ward off vitamin D deficiency. Talk to your doctor today about getting your vitamin D levels checked. These simple measures can help to ward off many problems resulting from this common deficiency.