Vitamin D is naturally produced when the sun's ultraviolet B (UVB) rays come in contact with bare skin. For some, just 10 to 15 minutes in natural sunlight is enough to produce the daily recommended amount of vitamin D. But as you age, your ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight decreases. For seniors, this means getting the right amount of vitamin D will require more than just spending time in the sun.
In fact, it's estimated that 95 percent of seniors in the U.S. may be deficient in vitamin D. While a blood test is the surest way to know if you are truly deficient, common signs of a low vitamin D levels include feelings of depression, fatigue and tiredness, bone and back pain and a weakened immune system.
Vitamin D plays a key role in the body's ability to absorb calcium, an element critical to maintaining strong and healthy bones. Seniors who get the recommended daily amount of vitamin D are less likely to experience falls and fractures, have higher levels of mobility, and are less at risk for developing bone disorders such as osteoporosis.
Studies also show vitamin D may even reduce the risk of common illness such as the flu or the common cold, as well as chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease and certain types of cancer.
Additionally, taking adequate amounts of vitamin D could help boost your mood. Research shows those experiencing depression saw a drastic improvement in symptoms after starting a regular course of vitamin D supplements.
While the sun is the most common source of vitamin D, it certainly isn't the only way to get your daily recommended amounts. Fatty fish, such as tuna, mackerel and salmon, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks are all good sources of vitamin D.
You can also find this essential vitamin in foods fortified with vitamin D such as milk, orange juice, soy milk and cereal.
Changing your diet is just one way to boost your intake of vitamin D. But those with a high deficiency in vitamin D may require a daily supplement. Again, the most conclusive way to detect a vitamin D deficiency is through a blood test. If you're showing signs of vitamin D deficiency, be sure to speak with your doctor.
If you are found to be deficient, your doctor will likely recommend a daily supplement to increase your levels. You'll often find that vitamin D and calcium are combined into one pill, but vitamin D can also be found on its own. While the amount of vitamin D required will vary, those over age 70 often need 800 international units (IU) daily, while those under 70 need 600 IU.
If you are prescribed a daily supplement, be sure to follow your doctors recommended dosage to see the maximum benefits. And always be sure to consult your doctor before taking any over the counter vitamins or supplements.
At Western Home Communities, we believe in providing seniors the amenities and programs they need to lead active, healthy lives. Our vibrant communities offer a range of living options to meet your needs today and in the future. Contact us today to learn more and to schedule a tour.