Vitamin D May Reduce Mortality in Older People
Thinking of “the elderly” brings images of nursing homes, hospitals and illnesses. But the truth is, as much as w’ed like to think otherwise, our own beloved aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents are aging. Sixty-five used to sound old, but not so much as we, ourselves, age. Those over age 65 remain a fast growing group in the U.S. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, during the 20th century, the number of people aged 65 or over has jumped by a factor of 11. The elderly, who made up only 1 in every 25 Americans (3.1 million) in 1900, made up 1 in 8 (33.2 million) in 1994.
Vitamin D has been known for its bone-building perks, and as a way to reduce heart disease. A recent study suggests that Vitamin D may reduce overall mortality in the elderly, at least when taken with calcium. In 2009, a study of over 3,000 elderly people noted that those with low levels of Vitamin D were three times more likely to die from heart disease, and 2.5 times more likely to die from any cause. A more recent study from June of 2012 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM) suggests that vitamin D (when taken with calcium) can reduce the rate of mortality in the elderly. This leads to a longer life expectancy for them. Levels of Vitamin D tend to tumble in this age group due to less ability of the elderly to make Vitamin D, as well as them spending more time indoors, thus getting less Vitamin D from sunshine.
While this most recent study showed benefits from taking Vitamin D with calcium, studies show that getting calcium from foods rather than a supplement works better for our health. Of the elderly, the lead author of the study on Vitamin D and the elderly states, “Some studies have suggested calcium (with or without vitamin D) supplements can have adverse effects on cardiovascular health,” said Rejnmark. “Although our study does not rule out such effects, we found that calcium with vitamin D supplementation to elderly participants is overall not harmful to survival, and may have beneficial effects on general health.”
In addition to its health-boosting benefits leading to less mortality and living a longer and healthier life, Vitamin D may help:
- older adults stay active
- to prevent lung cancer
- to slow prostate cancer growth
- to reduce high blood pressure
- to reduce heart disease in those with metabolic syndrome