Vitamin D May Help Older People Stay Active
Not getting enough vitamin D has been linked with a number of health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and obesity. A 2012 article in the Journal of Gerontology showed that vitamin D deficiency may also be related to decreased mobility as people age. This study followed 3000 participants between the ages of 70 and 79 for 6 years. Those with the lowest levels of vitamin D (less than 50 nmol/L) had a 30% greater risk of developing a mobility limitation over 6 years and were at two times greater risk for developing a mobility-related disability than those with the highest levels of vitamin D.
Researchers believe these results are related to the fact that vitamin D plays an important role in muscle function and the ability for muscles to contract properly. Vitamin D can also help prevent fractures because it helps our bodies properly absorb calcium.
Vitamin D comes mostly from sun exposure. However, older adults may be at high risk for developing vitamin D deficiency because the skin’s ability to absorb vitamin D decreases as we age. Older people may also spend a lot of time indoors or cover-up their skin in the sun, further reducing their exposure to direct sunlight. Although this practice is good to prevent skin cancer, it limits the ability of the skin to produce vitamin D. The current recommendation for vitamin D is 800 IU per day, but some experts believe that the recommendations may need to be higher as we age.
If you spend a lot of time indoors and are over 65, you may consider taking a vitamin D supplement or a good multivitamin that contains at least 800 IU of vitamin D, as it is difficult to get vitamin D from food sources alone. Some foods that contain vitamin D are fortified milk, fatty fish, and egg yolks. Sufficient vitamin D intake may help keep you mobile, healthy, and fracture-free as you age.
Remember to talk to your health care professional about your vitamin D levels, who may make personalized recommendations for how you can improve your levels.
Ana Johnson is Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, blogger, and freelance writer. Her areas of expertise in the field of nutrition are diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and bariatric surgery. Her mission in life is to use her innovative nutrition knowledge and extensive experience to help people achieve permanent wellness. She has her own blog at wholelifediets.com.