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Understanding Vitamin D Risks for Older Adults

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The long, cold winter days in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio can be tough, especially for older adults. Among the challenges winter creates for a senior in northern climates is the high risk for a vitamin D deficiency.

Because many older adults in northern climates don’t spend much time outdoors during the frosty days of winter, they aren’t exposed to sunshine. A lack of sun exposure can result in less vitamin D being produced by the body.

By the time spring arrives so people can spend more time outdoors again, many older adults have developed a vitamin D deficiency.

The Role Vitamin D Plays in Successful Aging

Vitamin D impacts our health in a variety of ways ranging from cancer prevention to weight management and sleep. When the body is deficient it can result in a number of health problems:

• Higher occurrences of breast, thyroid, lung, colorectal and prostate cancer
• Greater risk for developing some form of cardiac disease
• Cognitive decline, confusion, forgetfulness
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Type 2 Diabetes

Symptoms of a Vitamin D Deficiency

One challenge to recognizing that a senior may be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency is the symptoms can be very vague. They can easily be mistaken for something else. Common symptoms of a vitamin D include:

• Chronic fatigue and low energy
• Muscle pain and soreness
• Overall feeling of weakness
• Aches in joints

If you know the elder in your family doesn’t spend much time outdoors or does not take a vitamin D supplement, encourage them to talk with their primary care physician. The doctor can order a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. It will allow them to determine if the senior is deficient and how severe the condition is.

Depending upon how serious the deficit is, the physician can order a short-term prescription dose of vitamin D or recommend an over-the-counter supplement.

Foods Rich in Vitamin D and Calcium

Vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in very many foods, making it even more difficult to maintain healthy levels. Some that are rich in vitamin D include:
• Eggs (look for those with added vitamin D)
• Greek yogurt
• Cottage cheese
• Milk
• Fish and oysters
• Mushrooms

Also watch for foods that have been enriched with vitamin D during production such as orange juice and breakfast cereals.

Vitamin D Needs Calcium

Maintaining an adequate intake of calcium will allow your body to better absorb vitamin D. Good sources of calcium include:

• Cheese
• Bok choy
• White beans
• Green beans
• Broccoli
• Almonds
• Canned salmon
• Dried figs • Oranges
• Leafy greens like kale and spinach

To continue to learn more about successful aging, we encourage you to follow the Randall Residence Blog. We share new information throughout the month!

Randall Residence

269-624-4841

310 White Oak Road Lawton, MI 49065