It’s one of the most important vitamins we need for strong bones and teeth and can help protect us from a myriad of health conditions including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s. Yet, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), most people over 50 aren’t getting the recommended daily dose of this powerhouse nutrient: Vitamin D.
A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that seniors who aren’t getting enough vitamin D are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis and sustaining serious injuries from falls. But the danger of not getting enough Vitamin D doesn’t stop at our bones and teeth. According to the Vitamin D Council, it also helps:
- Muscle and cell growth
- Fight off infection
- Carry messages through our nervous system
- Maintain mobility and physical independence
We get vitamin D in one of two ways: by direct exposure to sunlight and through our diet. However, as we age, our body’s ability to synthesize sunlight through our thinning skin decreases, thus increasing our risk of low vitamin D levels. A simple blood test done at the doctor’s office can reveal if you’re not getting enough vitamin D to stay healthy, known as a vitamin D deficiency.
The older we get, the more vitamin D we need. By 50, the recommended dose by the NIH is 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day. By 70, you should get at least 800 IUs daily.
How to Get Your Daily Dose of “D”
While vitamin D is the only vitamin our bodies can make naturally (thanks to sunlight) it can be difficult to get the daily requirement through sun alone, especially if you live in a place with colder, cloudy weather. Consider adding vitamin D rich foods to you diet or an over-the-counter supplement.
- Eat Fatty Fish. A 3-ounce sockeye salmon fillet contains about 450 IUs of vitamin D. Other fatty fish options high in vitamin D include trout, mackerel, tuna, and eel. Need a less expensive alternative to fresh sockeye salmon? Canned light tuna is a great choice with about 150 IUs per 4 ounces.
- Get Outdoors. One of the biggest reasons seniors are at risk of vitamin D deficiency is lack of outdoor exercise. Next time you lace up your sneakers for a brisk walk, know that you’re doing more than getting your heart rate up and burning calories – you’re helping prevent bone loss, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s by getting more vitamin D. Experts suggest getting outside for at least 30 minutes twice a week to help get more vitamin D. Or, try shorter stints: up to 10 minutes daily in direct sunlight. Some health professionals suggest this sun time be without sunscreen for the maximum benefit, however, consult your doctor before leaving the sunscreen at home.
- Take A Supplement. If your bloodwork shows you’re vitamin D deficient you doctor will likely recommend, or prescribe, a supplement.
- Don’t Forget Calcium. Pharmacist Steven Trapp fills vitamin D prescriptions for seniors daily – and often another one for calcium. “According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, for the 50 plus crowd all individuals should take 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily along with vitamin D for fracture prevention,” said Dr. Trapp. “It’s important to take them together because calcium and vitamin D are best friends so to speak. Where one goes the other follows.”
Prevention from injuries, illnesses and even life threatening diseases doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, making sure you’re getting enough vitamin D is one of the most simple and effective ways to help you live a heathy life as a senior. To learn more about vitamin D and its benefits visit: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/.