You may already know that vitamin D deficiencies have become increasingly common in recent years, especially since more people of all ages are spending larger amounts of time indoors. But what you may not know is that seniors have an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, not only because they may not be as inclined toward outdoor activities, but also because their bodies can’t synthesize vitamin D from sunlight as efficiently as people under the age of 50. This deficiency has become so prevalent, The International Society for Clinical Densitometry has called it “the silent epidemic of the elderly”.
There are a number of signs of vitamin D deficiency that shouldn’t be ignored, including:
- muscle weakness
- mobility problems
- chronic gut issues such as IBS
- weight gain
- weakened immune system
A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism states that at least 70 percent of seniors aged 65 to 88 have at least one physical limitation due to a vitamin D deficiency and are likely to experience further functional decline.
Unfortunately, too many people push off symptoms like this to “normal aging” and just accept the symptoms rather than bringing them to their doctor’s attention. However, not all doctors will check vitamin D levels unless requested and instead may automatically prescribe an unnecessary medication for the symptom. This, of course, will either help only for a short period or won’t help at all, and new health issues may arise from the medications.
Vitamin D is a necessary catalyst for serotonin production, the “feel good” brain hormone that affects our moods. A serotonin-deficient person could experience depression, mania and become prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), all of which are typically treated with dangerous psychiatric medications. Low vitamin D levels can also weaken the immune system and create an overall hormonal imbalance resulting in low brain serotonin and high gut serotonin production.
Proper vitamin D levels offer these protections as well as others:
- maintain bone density
- lower risk of heart disease, some cancers and diabetes
- mobility maintenance
- strengthened immunity
- fall and fracture prevention
- maintain independent lifestyle
- lessen risk of Parkinson’s disease
Besides natural sunlight, certain foods contain higher levels of vitamin D; these include fatty fish (choose fish that are lower in mercury such as salmon, sardines, anchovies and trout, among others), egg yolks, almond milk fortified with vitamin D, cheese and beef liver.
It’s important at any age to know your vitamin D level, and it’s just as important to know how much vitamin D supplementation you should take, if any. Each person’s levels are different, depending on the foods they eat, their time spent outdoors, and more; too much of anything can be just as bad as not enough. Only through comprehensive individualized testing can the proper levels of vitamin D be reached and maintained for optimal health.