Vitamin D is one of the most essential nutrients for the body. Sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it is produced by exposure to sunlight, vitamin D plays a critical role in boosting our immune systems, improving bone health, and even regulating mood.
However, vitamin D deficiency is a common senior health issue and the risk of developing vitamin D deficiency increases as we age. Understand the warning signs of vitamin D deficiency and learn how to prevent it with this guide.
What is vitamin D?
Unlike other vitamins, which can only be absorbed from food or supplements, the human body naturally produces vitamin D after the skin is exposed to UVB rays from the sun. Once vitamin D is activated, it is turned into a hormone that helps with a variety of essential functions including absorbing calcium into our bones, fighting inflammation and infection, promoting cell growth, and transmitting messages throughout the nervous system.
Signs of vitamin D deficiency
One of the most common signs of a vitamin D deficiency in older adults is muscle weakness and bone pain. In fact, without enough vitamin D, seniors are at risk for developing bone problems such as osteoporosis. Seniors with vitamin D deficiency may also experience a general heaviness in their legs that causes difficulty when standing up or climbing stairs. Other signs of vitamin D deficiency include mood changes, stomach issues, weight gain, and general fatigue.
How to get more vitamin D
While the simplest ways to obtain vitamin D is by direct exposure to sunlight, older adults tend to spend more time indoors and out of the sun. Furthermore, many people live in colder climates without much sunlight during the winter months. Luckily, vitamin D may be found naturally by eating fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, as well as in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Some foods are also fortified with vitamin D, such as cereals, juices, and milk to help seniors obtain more of the vitamin in their diets.
Keep in mind that getting too much vitamin D from supplements can pose dangerous health risks. Seniors should always talk to their physician before taking vitamin D supplements to receive an official diagnosis and determine if supplements are required.