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
• 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
• Fish and oysters
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:
• Bok choy
• White beans
• Green beans
• 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!