Those of us living in the Pacific Northwest are at particular risk for vitamin D deficiency. During the summer months, many of us can get quite a bit of vitamin D just from being out in the sunshine, but it’s tougher during the winter.
Daystar Retirement Village is ideally situated for people who like to walk. In addition to walking paths at our facility, we are adjacent to Roxhill Park and Westwood Village Shopping Center is across the street. Walking outside has many physical and psychological benefits for Senior Wellness at any time of the year, but during the winter months it’s not going to help much with boosting your vitamin D levels.
According to WebMD, Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, because it helps the body absorb calcium from food, but its benefits go beyond healthy bones. Vitamin D deficiency was once mostly associated with rickets, a disease of the bones, but experts now believe that adequate vitamin D is necessary to guard against a long list of potentially dangerous health conditions, from cardiovascular disease to dementia to asthma to cancer.
Scientists are also studying the connection between vitamin D deficiency and diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis.
One recent study published in the journal Nutrition found that people who ate salmon three times a week were significantly less anxious than a control group, leading researchers to hypothesize that increased vitamin D levels can reduce anxiety. For more great information about the benefits of vitamin D, visit the Vitamin D Council website at https://www.vitamindcouncil.org
It turns out that elderly people, especially elderly people living in the northern U.S. are at high risk for having low levels of vitamin D. Some studies have shown that 85 percent of the elderly are likely to have lower than optimal levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency can occur for a number of reasons:
You don't consume the recommended levels of the vitamin over time. This is likely if you follow a strict vegan diet, because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheese, fortified milk, and beef liver.
Your exposure to sunlight is limited. Because the body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, you may be at risk of deficiency if you are homebound, live in northern latitudes, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure.
You have dark skin. The pigment melanin reduces the skin's ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Although low levels of vitamin D can put you at risk for a host of health problems, it’s unlikely that you would know your levels are low unless you have your blood tested. Next time you visit your doctor, be sure to ask whether you should be tested. Until then, or alternatively, you might want to talk with your pharmacist about a good vitamin D supplement.